Amid the humid weather, steady rush-hour traffic and loud honks from cars passing by, protesters and counter-protesters stood on opposite sides of University Avenue and Main Street chanting back and forth.
“No hate. No KKK. No fascist USA.”
“All lives matter.”
“‘Old Joe’ has got to go.”
Starting at noon Tuesday, about 100 people gathered at the base of the “Old Joe” Confederate soldier statue located next to the Alachua County Administration Building, about half in protest and half in support of the statue remaining at its current location.
Some protesters carried signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “F--- the Confederacy” while shouting anti-hate messages into megaphones across the busy downtown intersection. Others held Confederate flags high in their air, wore military-style clothing and carried signs that read “1st Amendment For All” and “History Happened, Don’t Erase It.”
“Old Joe” has been standing on the grounds of the Alachua County Administration Building since 1904. The intent of the statue is to commemorate those who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, but to others, it is a symbol of racism.
At a Tuesday evening meeting, the Alachua County Commission voted 4-to-1 to remove “Old Joe” from its original location and give it to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said county commission spokesperson Mark Sexton.
“Last night, four of the five commissioners agreed that the time has come to do something about this,” Sexton said. “So they took action.”
The Daughters, a nationwide heritage group of Southern women, now have 60 days to respond to the county about whether they wish to take ownership of the statue they originally erected 113 years ago.
If the Daughters take up the board’s offer, it will be their responsibility to pay for the removal of “Old Joe” and transport it to their desired location, Sexton said.
David McCallister, who originally predicted the commission would vote to keep the statue in place, said he was very disappointed with the county’s decision.
“The county commission is out of touch with the people and out of step with the times,” said McCallister, a spokesperson for Save Southern Heritage, a group of volunteers formed in 2015 who seek to preserve and promote the history of the South.
The Alachua County Commission has been attempting to solve this issue for more than a year and a half. They tried to relocate it to the Matheson History Museum, but the museum ultimately did not want to take it, McCallister said.
“It’s been a public feature of Gainesville for 100 years,” he said. “There’s no reason to be changing it.”
Faye Williams, a lead organizer for the protest and of the Alachua County Peace Coalition, said Tuesday afternoon’s demonstration was about moving the Confederate statue off government property.
“No monument (like that) should be standing in public space,” Williams said. “We’re the taxpayers.”
She said she knows what it means to come from a military family, and she feels there’s no honor in a statue that represents a history of racism and a Confederate Army that wronged blacks and minorities.
“My father was a Marine, my brother was a Marine, my uncle was a Marine,” Williams said. “What does that say to them? What does that say to me — as a black woman?”
Protesters and counter-protesters were loud but mostly respect
ful of one another, with the exception of one arrest, said Gainesville Police spokesperson Officer Ben Tobias.
Phillip Charles Dalton, 28, is accused of spitting on Jason Daniel Carlile, 40, during the protest at about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday and faces a charge of simple battery, according to a GPD arrest report.
Carlile, who traveled up to the protest from St. Lucie County, Florida, said at the time Dalton approached him, he was simply standing next to other counter-protesters supporting “Old Joe” and saying nothing.
Earlier during the protest, Carlile, who was wearing an “All Lives Matter” T-shirt, said he had been chanting slogans and called Black Lives Matter a hate group.
“I am one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” said Carlile, who said he supports President Donald Trump. “Yes, I am a Republican, but I also believe in equality. I’m not a racist.”
On Wednesday, Dalton was released from the Alachua County Jail on his own recognizance. Dalton declined to comment on the incident.
James Napier said he believes those who stood in solidarity with the “Old Joe” statue Tuesday were supporting history and unity.
“I see it as a sign of U.S. American history,” Napier said. “Not Confederate racism. None of that.”
Napier, 43, said he drove to Gainesville from out of state to be a part of a bigger issue and defend the Confederate statues being removed across the country.
On Friday, a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was taken down in New Orleans after nationwide controversy erupted in June 2015 when Dylann Roof, a self-described white supremacist, shot nine African-Americans dead in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, according to NPR.
Napier said the removal of similar historic statues won’t stop with New Orleans, Gainesville or other cities, which is why he travels to these protests and counterprotests. His purpose is to be a non-aggressor and ensure everyone has the right to protest, he said.
“This is about red, white and blue,” Napier said. “We all bleed red.”
Protesters young and old stand at the corner of Southeast University Avenue and Main Street in opposition to the “Old Joe” Confederate soldier statue. Demonstrators shouted through megaphones across all four corners of the intersection chants such as “Old Joe has got to go” and “No hate. No KKK. No fascist USA.”