FL Confederate Flaggers Fight To Keep KKK Mural In Courthouse: ‘It’s Not A Racist Thing’ (VIDEO)

Florida Confederacy fetishists insisted at a rally over the weekend that a mural of hooded Klansmen riding horses should not be removed from a county courthouse because the painting, which depicts members of one of the United States’ most notorious hate groups, is “not a racist thing.”

The 135-foot mural is one of the first things visitors to the Baker county building that houses government offices and the courthouse — and in the wake of the removal of the confederate flag, some are wondering if it’s a good idea to leave it up. To be fair, the mural tracks the county’s history “from the woolly mammoths to the year 2000,” according to Jacksonville.com. The mural created controversy even before the mural, which was paid for through private donations, was placed on the wall.

In 2001, the Florida Times-Union noted:

The Rev. Videll W. Williams Sr. of Faith Bible Church in Sanderson, west of Macclenny, wrote a letter to county commissioners opposing mural images of the KKK and the Confederate flag, which is used as part of the depiction of the Battle of Olustee.

Williams, who is African-American, said he sees the flag as a symbol of a desire to keep his ancestors in bondage. He described members of the KKK as murderers, rapists and arsonists.

“They were homegrown terrorists who escaped and made a mockery of justice,” he wrote. “Yet some desire to hang their picture on a wall in the very place that we depend upon to carry out justice. This would be a mockery of our entire judicial system.”

Williams said several black residents of Baker County share his sentiments. About 14 percent of the county is black.

After the Civil War ended, the Ku Klux Klan claimed to bring law and order to the county, Thomas explained. But the group, known for white supremacy, went to extremes.

A timeline of “500 Years of Baker County” on a county Web site lists the year 1868 and the reference: “Ku Klux Klan activities at peak in county.”

On the mural, the Klansmen are shown as a “dark, dusty” image, County Commission Chairwoman Julie Combs said.

“It’s just a very small, shadowy, dark part of our history the way it’s depicted. It wasn’t done to offend anyone,” she said.

Combs said most Baker County residents tell her they favor the mural. She has received two letters from residents saying otherwise.

Commissioner Alex Robinson said to take out the images of the Ku Klux Klan is equivalent to erasing the Vietnam War or Pearl Harbor from America’s past.

“There’s a part of history that everybody would like to omit, but the sad part about that is that you can’t omit that,” the Vietnam veteran said. “Most of the sentiments are that it’s a picture of Baker County history.

“Now we’ve got an out-of-town judge coming over saying we can’t put the history of Baker County in the Baker County Courthouse.”

Stan Morris, the “out-of-town” judge in question, argued that it was abhorrent that African-American criminal defendants were forced to face the visage of the Klan as they awaited trial. Even if it is a historical depiction, he said, the Klan’s presence contradicts the mission of the court — justice. The mural was moved to the first floor, where it now faces the entry doors, greeting visitors with the Klan’s image.

Before his death three years after the mural was painted, artist Gene Barber said that outrage over his piece was unwarranted, proudly declaring that he “did not follow the current and unfortunate fad of revising history for the sake of making it fit the wishes of any special interest segment of society.” In other words, he refused to cater to the “PC crowd” who demands that symbols of racism — especially a trio of heroic-looking Klan members — not be displayed in government buildings. His description of the Klan was an expression of nothing other than admiration:

“Lawlessness among ex-slaves and troublesome whites was the rule of the day. No relief was given by the carpetbag and scalawag government or by the Union troops. The result was the emergence of secret societies claiming to bring law and order to the county. One of these groups was the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that sometimes took vigilante justice to extremes but was sometimes the only control the county knew over those outside the law. The Klan faded from view at the end of Reconstruction. It had minor come-backs in the 1920’s and mid 1950’s. Since then it has become the subject of legend rather than a cause of fear.”

More than 12 years later, the mural is still in place, with the national debate over the display of Confederate symbols in government buildings following Confederacy-loving white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof’s horrific terrorist attack on a South Carolina church renewing the controversy.

A guidebook accompanying the mural helpfully explains:

“When the group known as the ‘Radical Republicans’ gained control of the state in 1868, the Reconstruction program took an unpleasant turn. … The reversed order was severely resented by a large segment of the white population. Lawlessness among ex-slaves and troublesome whites was the rule of the day. No relief was given by the carpetbag and scalawag government or by the Union troops. The result was the emergence of secret societies claiming to bring law and order to the county. One of these groups was the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that sometimes took vigilante justice to extremes but was sometimes the only control the county knew over those outside the law. The Klan faded from view at the end of Reconstruction. It had minor come-backs in the 1920’s and mid 1950’s. Since then it has become the subject of legend rather than a cause of fear.”

John Phillips, a Jacksonville city attorney, recently called the mural offensive and demanded its removal. Phillips started a petition on Change.org asking that the mural, which includes “blacks as naked and aboriginal with spear-imagery that never existed in Baker County, demeaning stereotyped images of the Native American and other imagery which divides, leading one to see the three hooded Klansmen on horseback amongst flowers and wildlife,” be removed.

“This mural is not historic — it was only painted in 2001 and it only stands to fuel an “us” versus “them” story of whites versus non-whites in Baker County,” Phillips writes. “It’s time to remove it.” The petition reminds us of the true history of the Ku Klux Klan in Baker County — and “us versus them” mentality:

Baker County has a history of violence against blacks. On October 5, 1920, four black men where jailed as possible witnesses or suspects in the death of a prominent young white farmer named John Harvey.Instead of lawfulness and justice, the Klan and what was described as 50 white men overtook the jail and seized the men from their cells, dragging their bodies across the county, then shooting and lynching them.  And then there is the story of J.E. Fraser, a reported Grand Wizard from Baker County, who threatened that if a “fellow sells his house to a n—–,” they will spread the word and that “boy better just get out of the state.”

“This one-sided, insensitive history and lawlessness should not be condoned or memorialized in the very halls of justice which is supposed to hold all men equally accountable,” the petition reads.

On Saturday, Confederacy fetishists showed up — with Confederate flags — in support of the mural’s presence, though the organizer of the rally says she was disappointed more people didn’t turn out in support of hate.

But those who did show up were not shy about sharing their opinions.

“They’ve got everything wrong on that. It’s not a racist thing,” Gary Faulk said.

“My thought is that it’s a bunch of malarkey. This is history, it’s got nothing to do with racism. It’s about heritage and that’s the way it should be,” Ron Stewart opined. “They talked about it what 10 years ago. It should’ve been left alone then. That’s it.”

This “heritage” and “history” support leads to some interesting questions about Confederate flag-wavers’ support of their symbol of heritage hate — most importantly, why the same arguments are being used to support the depiction of the Klan in a government building. The Swastika is also a symbol of “heritage” and “history,” yet is illegal in Germany — often replaced by the Confederate battle flag where hate groups are concerned. The Washington Post explained:

According to a 1946 article in Time magazine, the occupying Allies embarked on a ruthless quest to expunge any trace of Nazi iconography, reducing “to pulp literature, museum and library material, newspapers, films and war memorials” connected to Hitler’s regime. Only tombstones were spared. To this day, it is illegal to display a Nazi swastika or any other associated logo or perform the “Heil Hitler” salute — even sometimes as an act of satirical, anti-fascist protest.

Never will you find a serious German politician, let alone one contending for the leadership of the country, insisting in 2015 that the Nazi swastika is “part of who we are.” Nor would you be able to stock up on kitsch, “nostalgic” Nazi memorabilia. There are no vainglorious monuments to Nazi leaders lining German city squares; instead, in the heart of the capital, sits a painful testament to collective guilt and the horrors of the past.

The contrast between this and the way some American states still commemorate Confederate leaders, name roads after Confederate generals and fly Confederate flags could not be more stark.

It’s time that we follow Germany’s example and purge images honoring the Confederacy from the public eye. Stopping at government building is not enough. It’s past time that we deal with this issue once and for all — and not in a way that would please those who dream of the return of what most of us would consider a dark period of American history.

Watch a report on the rally for  this symbol of American “heritage” below:

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