ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A protest demanding the removal of a Confederate statue at an Allendale park brought out people on both sides of the debate.
The organizers of the Saturday afternoon protest are part of a movement to try to convince Allendale Township officials to remove the statue.
The statue located at the Veterans Garden of Honor depicts a Confederate and Union soldier standing back to back with a young slave crouched down between them.
“We want the statue taken down, removed, and put somewhere else where it can be commemorated in a museum. But we don’t think it should be on public property where other veterans are being commemorated because it’s a disgrace to the blood that they shed,” said protestor Christian Bartolo.
As dozens of protesters chanted “take it down,” counter-protesters also had their voices heard.
“I’m here in support of the statue staying up,” Ryan Kelley said. “The statue represents a war in our history, and it represents the freedom of slaves. It’s a reminder that we should never have slavery again in America or anywhere in the world.”
The exchanges between the two groups were tense at times, but all remained peaceful.
A few veterans also came out to the demonstration, weighing in on opposing sides of the debate.
“This statue actually shows unity,” Vietnam War veteran William Wheeler said. “It’s not racial a bit, and if people would do the history on it, it doesn’t mean a thing.”
Another veteran, Kayla Bentz, who served on two recent deployments with the Navy, is “disgusted” by the statue.
“We’re part of the Union, why would we need a Confederate soldier? It doesn’t symbolize us coming together, why do we need a slave at the feet of a Confederate and Union soldier?,” she said.
The statue is located at the Veterans Garden of Honor at 68th Avenue and Lake Michigan Drive. It’s among several statues honoring those who served in several wars.
The Allendale Township board will vote on whether to keep the statue at 7 p.m. Tuesday.