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Confederate monument removed after 92 years at Indy's Garfield Park

City said Klan-backed public officials selected site for monument in 1928
Posted at 10:01 AM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 17:18:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The city of Indianapolis dismantled the Confederate monument at Garfield Park on Monday, days after Mayor Joe Hogsett announced it would be removed.

The 35-foot-tall memorial was originally installed in 1912 at Greenlawn Cemetery at the site of a mass grave of Confederate prisoners of war who died at Indianapolis' Camp Morton during the Civil War.

It was moved to Garfield Park in 1928 when public officials, who were active in the Ku Klux Klan, sought to "make the monument more visible to the public," according to Hogsett's office.

Klan-backed Republicans, supported by Indiana Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson and his half-million Klansmen, swept the 1924 state elections, earning a majority in both chambers of the Indiana legislature and the governor’s mansion. John Duvall, a Klan-supported candidate, won the Indianapolis mayor's office in 1926.

RELATED | The Dragon & the Lady: The murder that brought down the Ku Klux Klan

"Whatever original purpose this grave marker might once have had, for far too long it has served as nothing more than a painful reminder of our state’s horrific embrace of the Ku Klux Klan a century ago," Hogsett said Thursday. "For some time, we have urged that this grave monument belongs in a museum, not in a park, but no organization has stepped forward to assume that responsibility. Time is up, and this grave marker will come down.”

In 2017, the Indianapolis Parks Board passed a resolution to remove the monument once funding was secured.

Taylor Schaffer, a spokesperson for Hogsett's office, said the Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank funded the removal of the monument, which will be kept in a city storage facility.

"I'm in full support to support my constituents, and it's been a long time coming and I'm very appreciative of the administration to see this moment happen," Indianapolis City-County Councilor Kristin Jones said.

Some people who came to watch the removal Monday said they were unhappy to see the monument come down, while others took home pieces of the monument that broke away.

"This is American history, military history and Indiana's history," Phillip Sheffield said. "History isn't about making everyone feel good. It's about telling what happened. You gonna hide everything that doesn't make you feel good? Then get rid of everything."

The removal of statues and monuments honoring the Confederate Army and its leaders, most of which were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is a topic an increasing number of cities have discussed in recent years as people have protested police brutality and in favor of racial justice.

Last week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a statue in Richmond depicting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would be removed, and city leaders committed to removing four additional Confederate memorials along the city's Monument Avenue.

Watch footage of the removal below.