After confrontation, emotional Confederate statue debate ends in ‘silence’ in Anderson County

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Anti-statue residents talk following Monday night’s meeting/Ben Carlson of The Anderson News

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Anderson County Fiscal Court took no action Tuesday morning on whether to remove a Confederate monument from the Courthouse lawn, silently bringing an end to 18 hours of sometimes heated conflict that included armed residents on the streets of downtown and two sides meeting in a pushing and telling match that had to be broken up by police Monday night.

In reports in the Anderson News, Editor Ben Carlson details the debate surrounding the statue, which has been brewing for more than a week as citizens took sides with online petitions, one which gathered about 700 names to remove the statue and another with 1,500 names to keep it in place, the newspaper reported.

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Lawrenceburg resident Holly Harrison-Hawkins spoke passionately Tuesday morning during the Fiscal Court study session, urging the board, which has control over the statue and the Courthouse grounds, to remove it

Harrison Hawkins had started the online petition urging the county take action.

Her petition had been answered by one started by Lawrenceburg resident Marcella Pittman urging county leaders to keep the statue.

According to Carlson’s report, Harrison-Hawkins presented her petition Monday night to the Lawrenceburg City Council, which has no control over the monument.

In an incident outside, Lawrenceburg resident Jalen Lee, who was there to support Hawkins, can be heard on a video posted to Facebook accusing Lawrenceburg resident Patsy Kays Bush, who supports keeping the monument in place, of threatening to “hang” him.

ABC 36’s Monica Harkins talked to Lee about the incident Tuesday. He says he was disappointed, but not surprised.

“But never to that degree of violence have I ever before had someone threaten my life in front of my own two eyes,” Lee said.

We reached out to Bush and she didn’t get back to us.

Bush and another woman appeared to shove each other before city police officers who were nearby quickly broke up the confrontation.

Following the meeting, Lee said he and the other woman provided statements to the Lawrenceburg Police Department.

Police officers confirmed they’re investigating the complaint.

Harrison-Hawkins delivered largely the same message to the city council and fiscal court, saying slaves in Anderson County joined the Union army during the Civil War in an effort to gain their freedom.

“They deserve a monument in Lawrenceburg above anyone who fought for the Confederacy,” she said, according to the newspaper. “I can’t imagine how it feels to be a black person walking into a court of justice under the gaze of a Confederate statue.
“I don’t feel the deliberate reminder of the enslavement of my ancestors and the ongoing attempts to erase my existence, because I was born white. But, I can listen, learn and speak up.”

“It’s simple. I want to keep the monument,” Pittman said in response, according to Carlson’s report in the Anderson News. “I don’t feel it’s right to remove everything people find offensive. It’s history, and I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of it. We’re making progress and doing it without removing monuments.”

Lawrenceburg resident also Robert Cole spoke Monday night and Tuesday morning, saying his family has roots in Anderson County dating back 200 years, and that a number of his relatives’ names are on that monument.

“I don’t think they were bad men. They put their guns down and swore allegiance to their country. They did a lot for this county and I don’t think removing their names does historical justice to this county,” the newspaper reported Cole as saying.

Lawrenceburg resident Nancy Perkins said she cannot believe this issue has surfaced in Anderson County.

“I never thought anything like this would happen here as long as I lived,” she said, according to the newspaper. “It’s special here. Don’t start taking things down and bringing guns into our city. It’s just a beautiful little town and I never dreamed there would be a protest here.”

Clarence Perkins, a resident here for 30 years who said he majored in history and is a student of the Civil War, said the monument needs to stay where it is. He was one of 10 people who spoke in favor of keeping the monument.

“I don’t consider myself racist and I don’t think the monument is racist in nature,” he said. “These people left their farms to fight for a cause they believed in. If it’s torn down, it would besmirch their belief and reduces us all in Anderson County. “There is no white privilege in this. The statue needs to stay.”

Lawrenceburg resident Richard Cook said he is a veteran who was part of the last draft for the Vietnam War.

“Until now, I didn’t think anything could be more divisive than that,” he said, adding that for fairness, there ought to be a monument to local soldiers who fought on behalf of the Union.

“War is a nasty business. To remember the fallen is something really important. We might not all agree with the cause, but lives were lost,” he said according to Carlson’s report.

Lawrenceburg resident Joe Gregory said the statue needs to stay.

“The stuff in the past can stay in the past,” he said, the News reported.

Following Tuesday morning’s session, Judge-Executive Orbrey Gritton said the issue is not scheduled to be discussed during any future meetings, but thanked those who spoke on the issue.

“I was impressed with both sides,” said Gritton, the newspaper reported. “The biggest thing is that the respect they showed for each other.”

The two sides were a little more confrontational Monday night when Harrison-Hawkins presented her petition to the City Council, even though it has no authority over the monument.

Due to social distancing requirements, partisans on both sides were not allowed in council chambers and stood by the side door to city hall, where a large speaker had been placed to allow them to hear what was being said, the newspaper described in an article.

Shortly after Harrison-Hawkins concluded her remarks, partisans on both sides verbally confronted each other. The shouting got so loud that it temporarily interrupted the council, which had just voted to go into closed session.

At least two police officers outside of city hall were quickly joined by Police Chief Bryan Taylor. Those favoring the monument gathered near their vehicles in the parking lot before some made their way down Main Street, where they stood across the street from the courthouse openly carrying side arms and rifles.

Those who want the monument moved spoke with Taylor, who said if they wish to file complaints, they could go next door to the police station, the newspaper described.

The Council had agreed to hear from one member on each side of the issue, but no Council members made any comments.