Confederate statue controversy in Allendale Township

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Confederate statues have been taken down across the country in the wake of recent racial unrest. West Michigan is no different.

There has been a recent push to rename several counties named after slaveholding members of Andrew Jackson’s cabinet and a monument in Allendale depicting a union soldier, confederate soldier and slave. 

One group wants it gone.

“This statue is divisive. It is offensive. It displays a symbol of hatred. That is used by white supremacy groups in this country,” Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists Spokesman Mitch Kahle said. “It needs to be removed.”

Kahle and his group voiced their concerns about the statue publicly before going to the Allendale Township board. Township Supervisor Adam Elenbaas says the board would have preferred he went directly to them. 

“I’ll tell you that it’s not up to me directly that is something that has to go to our full township board. I’ll tell you I’ve been very open to the conversations with people. I’ve had a lot of people on both sides of the issue and also on the historical side versus current representation and those are things that our board is going to be discussing,” Elenbaas said. “To be very clear, the statues were built to represent the Civil War, they are not there to glorify the Confederacy.”

Kahle and his group MACRA aren’t convinced as the statue currently rests in the township’s Garden of Honor within the township’s veterans memorial park. 

“What this statue does is equates Confederate and Union soldiers both as American veterans. When in fact, Confederate soldiers are not American veterans,” Kahle said. “They were traitors to the United States. They were enemies of freedom.”

Another group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans whose members can trace their lineage back to service for the rebel army, have a Grand Rapids chapter. They say in a full statement released to News 8 the statues removal is unnecessary. 

“We the Michigan Camps of the SCV, wholeheartedly condemn any and all efforts to remove Confederate flags, monuments and symbols from the public eye,” The Sons of Confederate Veterans Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne Camp #2257 says. “We call on all Americans of rational thought to speak out against this unjust cultural genocide, and to contact those entities involved to respectfully express their unfavorable view of these acts, (removing Confederate symbols).”

“We call on all Americans of rational thought to speak out against this unjust cultural genocide, and to contact those entities involved to respectfully express their unfavorable view of these acts,” Sons of Confederate Veterans said in a statement.

Entities like Allendale’s Township supervisor. 

“I’ve had some really good conversations with people on, I guess you could say, both far ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. Lot of conversation and I’m looking forward to talking about it further with our township board and finding what the best solution is for Allendale,” Elenbaas said. “We’re listening. And obviously there are a lot of different mentalities around this. Send me a message. I’m willing to have those conversations and make sure something can happen on a township level.”

Elenbaas says the township will meet June 22nd to discuss the future of the statue. 

In the meantime, he would like concerned individuals to reach out to him directly by email to express their concerns peacefully and respectfully at Supervisor@allendale-twp.org.

The statue itself is one of many that pay tribute to soldiers of the United States of every major conflict starting with the Revolutionary War all the way through the Persian Gulf. 

The noticeable difference is the presence of what Kahle calls, “the enemy force” present with the Union soldier, and of course the slave child beneath them.

“This statue makes it look like Confederate soldiers did everything they could to free the slaves when in fact they were the ones holding them and trying to preserve the institution of slavery,” Kahle said. “This slave boy is kneeling on the ground, wearing a cotton-picking satchel. What could be more demeaning to African Americans than this image?”

According to the Sons of Confederate Veterans website, they say “citizen soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution.”

Making no mention of the atrocities of chattel slavery.

“Isn’t that offensive,” Kahle said. “That is so offensive for a group of, essentially, white racists, to come in here and say that removing a symbol of hatred against blacks is offensive. Or that it’s somehow cultural genocide. I’ll tell you what genocide was, that was the African slave market.”

News 8 have created a poll posing the question on whether or not the statue is offensive and if it should be removed. You can view the current results and vote yourself ahead of the township meeting Monday June 22. 

You can read the Sons of Confederate Veterans full statement below:

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