Governor calls for removal of Jefferson Davis statue in Kentucky

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, June 4, 2020

Statues of Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln tower over visitors to Kentucky’s Capitol, but the state’s governor doesn’t think the Confederate president belongs in the same space as the U.S. president who helped end slavery.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that he sees the Davis statue as a divisive symbol that should be removed from the Capitol Rotunda. Beshear was asked about the Davis statue during a time of unrest in Louisville, where crowds have protested over police interactions with blacks.

“Even if there are those who think it’s a part of history, there should be a better place to put it in historic context,” the governor said. “And right now, seeing so much pain in our state and across our country, can’t we at least realize that in so many of our fellow Kentuckians … it is in the very least so hurtful to them? And doesn’t that at least justify it not sitting where it does right now?

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“I don’t think it should be in the Capitol Rotunda,” he added.

The 15-foot (4.5-meter) marble statue of Davis sits in a corner of the state’s ornate Capitol Rotunda near a bronze likeness of Lincoln. Both men were born in Kentucky. The statues of the Civil War adversaries are among several on display in the Rotunda.

Advocates have been asking state officials to remove the Davis statue for years. In 2018, officials removed a plaque declaring the only president of the Confederacy to be a “Patriot-Hero-Statesman.”

Now, the effort to move the Davis statue could gain new momentum.

In Louisville, demonstrators have gathered for days to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot in her home by police detectives in March. Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door while attempting to enforce a search warrant. No drugs were found in the home. Protesters also are demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after an encounter with police in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced that the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee near downtown Richmond will be removed from its 40-foot-tall (12-meter-tall) granite pedestal as soon as possible. The governor said it will go into storage while his administration seeks public input about its future.