Allendale leader: Board plans to keep Confederate soldier statue

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Allendale Township Supervisor Adam Elenbaas said Tuesday the board plans to vote to keep a controversial Confederate soldier statue.

The official vote is set to take place at 7 p.m. June 30.

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.

“This is a launching point for a lot larger discussion than just a statue that’s been sitting out in the park for a couple decades,” Elenbaas said.

Elenbaas added that he hopes this decision will spark continued meaningful conversations both in the community and across West Michigan.

Civil rights activists want to remove the statue of the likeness of a soldier carrying a Confederate battle flag that is standing next to the image of a Union soldier and over a depiction of a young slave.

On Monday night, the majority of people who spoke at a township meeting about the statue wanted to keep it. After two hours of public comment, trustees didn’t make a final decision on the fate of the statue.

There were only a few people of color at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

“Just because they weren’t there doesn’t mean they’re not passionate about this,” Grand Valley State University Professor Louis Moore said of the meeting demographic. 

Moore has been teaching U.S. and African American History at GVSU, which is located in Allendale Township, for 12 years. He says there’s evidence dating back as far as the 1930s of Black communities protesting Confederate monuments and statues in the U.S.

“This is about hate. Why do we celebrate this, these people? Black people in America have always looked at these as hate,” Moore said.

Moore says for many, the statues are a painful reminder of America’s past. 

“If you really want to tell this history, if you really want to tell the history of the Civil War, then why not have a Black soldier there? After all, 180,000 of them fought. So that’s why I don’t understand the idea of ‘We need to preserve this history,’ but not really wanting to tell the whole history,” he added.

Last week, demonstrators covered the statue with a plastic bag and placed notes on it denouncing it as racist.

The township board says later down the line, it may explore options to add an educational plaque to clarify the meaning of the statue.

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