St. Augustine’s Confederate monument context group is developing, and so are plans for protest
As of Wednesday afternoon, eight people had applied to help the city of St. Augustine add context to its Confederate monument.
The city plans to establish the committee to bring a more complete Civil War history to its monument in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Meanwhile, a local minister is standing by his demand that both monuments in the public square be removed.
“I don’t really trust the process of contextualization. … It’s wrong to honor people who were traitors and honor the system of slavery,” said the Rev. Ron Rawls, who recently organized a protest of the monuments.
One monument, controlled by the city, remembers 44 men who served the Confederacy. A University of Florida-controlled monument on the western end of the public square bears the image of a Confederate flag and honors Confederate Gen. William Loring and his service in other conflicts — it’s also where his ashes are buried.
The City Commission voted in October to keep its monument after hearing hours of testimony at two meetings, and after research into other issues such as the cost of removing the city’s monument. They also decided to create a seven-member committee to help provide context to the site.
The deadline to apply for the panel is 3 p.m. on Dec. 29, and participants don’t have to be city residents, according to city documents.
Others beside the eight applicants (see Sidebar) have expressed interest in the committee but hadn’t filed an application as of Wednesday afternoon, according to city documents.
City Manager John Regan said he expects to have recommendations on the candidates to city commissioners for a decision no earlier than their meeting on Jan. 22.
As the city pushes ahead with the committee, Rawls said he is planning his next moves.
Rawls, pastor at St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine, led a protest of the monuments during Light-Up! Night — the city’s kickoff to its annual Nights of Lights event — on Nov. 18. He said he believes the city has not truly listened to his concerns and those of other African-Americans, despite two public meetings.
Before Light-Up! Night, Regan had the city post a sign in front of its monument describing their effort to add a more fleshed-out Civil War history to the site.
“I just wanted to make sure that the community and people that look at the monument know that this is a work in progress, that we’re not ignoring any issues, that we’re following through with what the commission approved,” Regan said.
Rawls said he plans to announce his “next steps” via Facebook this weekend. While he won’t protest nonprofit events, he said plans to protest more city-backed events and draw outside attention to the city.
“We’re going to continue on with that show,” Rawls said. “We’re going to take advantage of events that are sponsored by the city to show guests and people on the outside what we feel is a truer picture of St. Augustine.”
WHO HAS APPLIED?
According to applications provided to the City of St. Augustine, candidates seeking to be part of a committee that will help add context to the city’s Confederate monument thus far include:
• Stephen Danner, a military sales manager at Acrow Bridge Corporation of America.
• Thomas Graham, an author and retired Flagler College history professor.
• Marty Lewis, who served on “the original formative board” for the state park at the site of Fort Mose, a settlement of freed slaves in the St. Augustine area, and was part of the site’s historical society.
• George Linardos, a retired attorney.
• Kenneth Maass, a retired educator who taught social studies and American history at St. Augustine High School.
• Jill Pacetti, an office manager and bookkeeper who is related to Eusibio Pacetti, one of the men listed on the Plaza’s Confederate monument.
• James Willow, a Vietnam veteran who has “studied both sides of the Civil War.”
• Andrew Witt, executive director of the St. Johns Cultural Council.