City commission hears both sides of Confederate statue debate

PADUCAH, KY – Paducah city leaders heard both sides of the debate surrounding Confederate general Lloyd Tilghman’s statue during its meeting Tuesday.

There are petitions to keep the statue and to remove it. Not everyone adding their names to those petitions is from our area.

Tonight’s frank and honest conversation was cordial, but blunt. “The same southern ancestors that you are hoping to honor inflected campaigns of terror against mine and lynching skyrocketed,” Dawn Smith said. Smith is one of the people who spoke up against the statue. She tried leveling with those who said the statue is about their heritage, but holding held her position. “I’m not saying don’t love your ancestors, but don’t expect us to celebrate them,” she said.

Several members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans spoke to the commission about their opposition to the removal of the statue. Craig Cain said of groups against Confederate symbols: “It seems that all they’re interested in is the flag attacks and monument removals to get revenge. The churches we attend teach love and forgiveness, not hate and revenge.”

Cain often referred to the Civil War as the War Between the States. “How are you preserving the painful legacy of slavery and white supremacy by having a motionless statue sitting in a seldom visited park for the last 110 years without bothering anyone?” he said.

Haydon “Corky” Bloodworth, who lives close to the statue, says he’s fought for it before. This time, he told the commission he’d like to see the issue be voted on in an referendum.

No decision was reached by the commission.

Commissioner Richard Abraham encouraged the crowd to rise above recent events around the country and not to be manipulated by the trend of removing statues. Abraham, as he’s told us previously, says he sees the statue as a way to look back and admire how far our region has come.

Commissioner Sarah Steward-Holland addressed everyone’s civility throughout the open conversation. She said we, as a community, can disagree on an issue while getting along. “You can be proud of your heritage, and not agree on this issue,” she said.

Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless asked the room to take a moment to think about racism in 2017. Harless spoke about institutional racism and inequality in our society, from jobs to opportunities. She did not say whether she supported removing or maintaining the statue.

You can watch the unedited footage of the discussion below.

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