ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Allendale Township Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to keep a controversial statue of a Confederate soldier, though it also decided to form a committee to look at the future of the statue.
The move was not unexpected; the township supervisor had previously said the board would vote for the statue to remain.
The statue in question is at the Veterans Garden of Honor at 68th Avenue and Lake Michigan Drive. It depicts a soldier carrying a Confederate battle flag, standing back-to-back with a Union soldier. A slave child is at their feet holding a placard declaring the end of slavery. Civil rights activists want the Confederate soldier to be removed, arguing it is offensive to African Americans and to veterans because it honors an enemy.
Mitch Kahle (credited with bringing this controversy forward) told the board its not a matter of “if” the statue is coming down but “when” the statue is coming down. Kahle is a well-known civil rights activist from Muskegon County. @WOODTV pic.twitter.com/gxmyb7b2Wk— Leon Hendrix (@LeonHendrix) June 30, 2020
But at a Tuesday special meeting to take up the issue, trustees said they didn’t view the statue as racist. One suggested that agreeing to remove it would open the door for people to argue other soldiers depicted in the park should be removed.
Public comment was more varied than what trustees heard at their meeting last week, when most said the statue should stay. This time, some people who oppose the statue said it presents a negative legacy for Allendale. One man argued trustees may have a different perspective if they were black.
But others still said the statue served as a teaching tool and wasn’t offensive. One said those who don’t like it should stay away from the park.
After public comment trustees agreed that an committee should be comprised to make decisions about the future of the display in the park. They discussed the potential of adding more statues among potential changes that might come from the group’s recommendations.
Mitch Kahle, the civil rights activist who brought concerns about the statue forward, said he believes the statue will come down one way or another.
“We all know. You know — everybody on this board knows, I know, everybody here knows. It’s not a matter of if that statue’s coming down it’s when it’s coming down. We know it’s coming down,” Kahle said.
Some accused Kahle of making a threat with his comments.
After the meeting armed citizens patrolled near the statue in an apparent effort to protect it from potential vandalism.
Those fighting to have the monument taken down vowed to continue their plight.
“It’s not over,” Kahle could be heard telling his supporters after the meeting.