A group claiming to own a statue of a Confederate soldier is suing a Kentucky county attempting to remove it.
The Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) filed the lawsuit Tuesday against officials in Daviess County, where a Confederate memorial has stood since 1900 outside the county’s courthouse. The group is seeking to stop the planned relocation of the memorial.
The lawsuit states the UDC was granted a license by the Daviess County Fiscal Court in 1893 to erect the memorial in dedication to Confederate soldiers. The group fundraised the required $3,500 to help erect the statue.
But Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter says the UDC does not have ownership of the statue. The county has been attempting to remove the statue since last summer.
“We have several documents showing they don’t own it,” Porter said, according to the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
A 1997 document from the National Record of Historic Places shows the statue’s ownership is “public-local.” The UDC, however, says in its lawsuit it has “consistently and continually filed its Artifact and Monument Inventory list annually with the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
Confederate statues again became a subject of debate last summer during the fight against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May 2020 after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after Floyd’s death sparked protests across the U.S.
Dozens of Confederate symbols from public places have been either removed, relocated or renamed since Floyd’s death, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which says an estimated 1,800 Confederate monuments “remain on public land.”
Opponents to the Confederate monuments have argued they symbolize white supremacy and should be removed. Others contend they recognize Civil War history and Southern heritage.
The issue also became a debated topic last summer in Owensboro, where protesters gathered both in favor of and opposition to the century-old statue.
“It has nothing to do with slavery. It has to do with confederate soldiers who were killed in battle — for soldiers who never got to come home,” Dale Roberts, a supporter of the monument, said at an August rally, according to the Owensboro Times. “Their families didn’t know where they were buried and they didn’t have anything else. It was only erected about 35 years after the Civil War so there were plenty alive that remember Confederate soldiers who died on the battlefield who didn’t have any kind of memorial to their loved ones.”
Owensboro NAACP president Rhondalyn Randolph said the statue glorifies white supremacy.
“We just want to show we need to progress forward from that kind of thinking, and our community demographics, we are changing,” Randolph said, according to WKU Public Radio.
Al Mattingly, judge-executive for Daviess County, said in July the county had an agreement with the UDC to move the statue to “a battlefield, a private memorial or marked place” if it was voted to be removed, but the group backed out of the agreement, the Owensboro Times reported.
The Daviess County Fiscal Court voted unanimously in August for the statue to be relocated, according to WFIE. Mayor Tom Watson said in March the statue should not be relocated to city-owned property, which includes two museums a committee had recommended for its new location, the Messenger-Inquirer reported.
It’s a “setback” for the lawsuit to pause the relocation process, Porter told WFIE.
A hearing is scheduled for next month, WEHT reported.