Committee forms suggestions for Allendale Civil War statue

Ottawa County

A statue in Allendale Township depicts a Confederate soldier and a young slave. (June 19, 2020)

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Allendale Township board is inching closer to finding a solution for a controversial Civil War statue in one of the township parks.

Last summer, Mitch Kahle with Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activist began making calls for the township to remove a statue that features a Confederate soldier and a slave child.

“There never should have been any statue honoring a Confederate soldier in Michigan or anywhere as far as I’m concerned. And then there never should have been allowed a depiction of an African American child essentially kneeling on the ground picking cotton at the boots of white soldiers,” Kahle said.

A statue in Allendale Township depicts a young slave behind the legs of a Confederate soldier. (June 19, 2020)

There have been numerous protests and demonstrations at the park include one in January where the statue was tarred and feathered.

Despite passionate pleas to remove the statue, the township board voted to keep it in the park last June. There were several Allendale residents who supported the township’s decision, saying the statue should remain as a source of education.

The township instead moved to create a committee to look into the future of the monument. Monday night, the Garden of Honor Memorial Committee, which is made up of seven Allendale residents, gave the board a progress report making three initial recommendations.

One option is to add plexiglass around the statue with historical information about the civil war inscribed. The second option is to replace the statue with an inscribed obelisk or column. The third option is to replace the statue with a tribute to a Black Union soldier named Benjamin Jones.

“There were some people who came into the room with very definite ideas of what they wanted to see happen,” said Allendale Township Supervisor Adam Ellenbaas. “It was remarkable to see at the end that people from both sides of the spectrum could reiterate the other side’s point of view and realize that their point was valid but didn’t come with a malice toward the other person.”

Ellenbaas, who sits in on the committee’s meetings, says because the statue has already been damaged, replacement was a part of the conversation.

“Anything other than removal of those offensive statues is a nonstarter,” Kahle said.

Kahle says he along with others will continue protesting until the statue is gone.

The township says they’re confident Allendale residents will be able to come to a resolution.

“The township board put a process in place to hear the voices in our community and that process has taken longer than a lot of people anticipated, but the board has stayed true to that process and we’re making sure that we do hear the voices of the people in our community and on that committee,” Ellenbaas said.

The Garden of Honor Memorial Committee has at least five more meetings ahead of a final recommendation. The township board will then make a decision.

The township board says they expect to hear from the committee again at upcoming meetings.

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