PHOENIX (AP) – Black leaders in Arizona are pushing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to remove six Confederate monuments on public land that they say are offensive and glorify the country’s racist past.
The push comes as communities along the South wrestle with whether to keep longstanding symbols of the Confederacy. Three monuments were removed in New Orleans recently, and Mississippi officials have debated the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem.
In Arizona, leaders from local NAACP chapters said Monday they are calling on Ducey to remove the monuments, including one at the state capitol that was erected in 1961. They also include a marker at Picacho Peak north of Tucson dedicated to Confederate soldiers who defended the area during a battle with union soldiers and a highway named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
“We should not acknowledge and commemorate or deify the Confederate soldiers, as they were enslavers. They were secessionists, they were segregationists, they were haters, racial bigots,” said East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr. said.
Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato declined to say whether the governor would like to see the monuments removed and names changed. Instead, he said “Arizonans interested in name changes should reach out to the respective board or commission.”
The monument at the Capitol is administered by a commission whose members are appointed by legislative leaders, the chairman of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the Phoenix mayor and the governor. Highway names are handled by the Board on Geographic and Historic Names, which Ducey doesn’t directly control but which includes a majority of nominees from executive departments and citizens who are appointed to their jobs by the governor.
Leaders on Monday said the governor has given them lip service since they began a campaign to remove Confederate monuments two years ago. They are pushing Ducey to take executive action to remove the monuments now. They added that their chances are good because of recent changes in how cities in Southern states like Louisiana are removing them.
Marshall Trimble, the state historian, said Arizona was briefly a Confederate territory and that a Confederate force occupied Tucson for a few weeks during the Civil War. The state joined the union in 1912.
Trimble said the push to remove the monuments is misguided and unjustly erases American history.
“One thing that America should be proud is that it’s never tried to expunge or hide its history. It’s let the world see its warts and all,” Trimble said. “Our country has not been perfect. The slavery issue is a real blot on American history.”
But activists said it’s time Arizona rid itself of its Confederate monuments on public land.
“The state of Arizona has no place in the propping of these symbols of intolerance by allowing those symbols to be placed on state property, and that assumes that our government is sympathetic to these victimizers and all they stood for,” said state Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat from Laveen.
Associated Press writer Bob Christie contributed to this report.