Removal of Confederate monument in Garfield Park draws variety of opinions

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INDIANAPOLIS — Following Thursday’s announcement that the Confederate monument dedicated to the lives of more than 1,600 soldiers will be removed soon, people quickly gathered in front around it in Garfield Park. The monument was commissioned in 1912 in Greenlawn Cemetery. It was moved to Garfield Park in 1928 following efforts by public officials, active in the KKK, who sought to “make the monument more visible to the public.”

Joe Kriese, a neighbor who’s lived beside the park since he was 14, expressed his disapproval of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s decision.

“It’s very important too. if you read the words on it there, it’s not a war memorial,” Kriese said. “It’s a giant tombstone. It’s to remember our past. It’s to remember the tragedy of the Civil War that here in Indianapolis, we had a prisoner of war camp for Americans. 1,616 of them died. This is just to remind us that if we forget our history, where we gonna go?”

Kriese was not alone in his views, though others we spoke with were not as passionate about the decision to remove it.

Quinton Horne comes to Garfield Park often and said he never realized the monument he often jogs past is a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers.

“At least I feel like people of color are being heard so that’s kind of my first reaction,” Horne explained. “I never gave it even two thoughts. So, I just wanted to make sure that I was a little bit more informed. I wouldn’t say I’m happy. I would just say that around the country we’re seeing a lot of changes being made, a lot of people addressing racial inequalities, and that makes me happy. So, if it’s a monument that needs to come down, if that makes people feel better, then I’m all for it.”

We also reached out to community leader Reverend Charles Harrison, president of the Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition and pastor at Barnes United Methodist Church, about his reaction to the news. He said, “The Confederate Monument in Garfield Park is a symbol of slavery, segregation, injustices, racism, and a very dark and painful history for African Americans in America. I commend Mayor Joe Hogsett for removing the Confederate Statue in Garfield Park when the streets of America are in chaos, filled with protesters demanding justices in our judicial system, equality, and reforms to end police brutality toward African Americans.”

Samantha Douglas is a community advocate. While she is happy to see the monument go, and approves to the decision, she feels like it is merely a gesture and the city’s leadership needs to do more.

“While I appreciate it’s being taken down, I wish I would have saw a press conference from him supporting a Black Agenda or supporting major moves to dismantle a system, like I said, that has oppressed our people for hundreds of years,” Douglas said. “The parks had already voted in 2017 to remove this and so for me, it was like okay so we’re finally putting momentum behind a decision that was already made three years ago?”

We reached out to Mayor Hogsett’s Office to express the concerns of some of our neighbors as it relates to taking more swift action to address racial inequalities. This is the full statement his office provided:

“From day one, Mayor Hogsett has reoriented city government to address racial inequities – specifically when it comes to public safety, economic mobility, and community investment.

This included the launch of a comprehensive criminal justice reform effort to address the scourge of mental health challenges and addiction and aimed at keeping non-violent individuals out of jail and in treatment. These efforts resulted in the creation of the Assessment and Intervention Center as part of the new Community Justice Campus, which is slated to open this year.

As it relates to policing, we have returned the department to community-based beat policing, required racial bias training for every officer, and created the MCAT program to ensure those experiencing a health crisis are connected with treatment. In the last 30 days, we have taken meaningful steps toward creating the department’s first use of force review board with citizen participation and begun to address long-overdue changes to IMPD’s use of force policy. And, as the mayor recently announced, IMPD will begin deploying body cameras for every officer beginning later this summer.”

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