Council unanimously votes to remove Confederate statues from courthouse lawn

Alex Brinkhorst

The 15 members of the Lexington City Council unanimously voted Thursday to move the statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge from their current location at the former Fayette County Courthouse.

The resolution and vote came in the aftermath of the violent protests and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

During an open forum at the courthouse Thursday night, 55 people, who had previously signed up to speak, voiced their opinions on the statues’ relocation. Some yielded their time to other speakers. The clear majority spoke in favor of relocating the statues.

The viewing was open to the public but was quickly filled, and additional viewers watched the session on televisions outside the chamber.

Many speakers were united in favor of moving the statues and called for the council to vote unanimously on the issue. After many of the speakers’ remarks, mass applause could be heard outside of the chamber, while some inside held up “Take back Cheapside” signs.

“In this moment, we must stand together,” DeBraun Thomas, one speaker in favor of moving the statues, said, during his allotted time to speak.  

Others in favor expressed that now is not the time to fear. Some used religious thought as justification, while others called for courage. Some shared personal stories about growing up in the south and having direct family members tied to slavery.

Not every speaker was in favor of moving the statues, however. Some cited multiple issues like concerns of violent protestors, noting the Alt-Right and the Alt-Left. Others shared historical anecdotes, including the fact that Breckinridge was also Vice President. Some of the speakers also offered alternatives; one suggestion was the construction of a statue of an African American Union soldier at the courthouse.

Before the floor was opened to the speakers, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray had explained that two private donors were willing to move the statues free of charge.

“We have some more work to do,” Gray said after the vote to move the statues.

Gray now has 30 days to propose to the council a new location for the statues.