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Confederate Statue discussion forum echoes 2017 conversations

A community discussion will be held on Monday, June 22 about the fate of the statue on the Courthouse lawn – however, Lafayette County residents and the Board of Supervisors held a similar discussion in 2017 that yielded no action.

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors met on Sept. 6, 2017, to discuss if the Confederate statue should be moved from its place on the courthouse lawn. The discussion was simple. The board allowed for four people – two in favor of moving the statue and two who were against it – to speak. No decision was made that day, as it was just a discussion.

Effie Burt was one of the individuals who spoke in favor of moving the statue, while Danny Toma was one of the individuals who spoke in favor of leaving it where it was.

“I think we should put Confederate monuments into a museum where they can be appreciated by those who feel they were not oppressed like how I feel I was with my family,” Burt said. “I think we need a change and if we’re going to move forward, we cant keep in the past. All you can do is look for the future.”

Danny Toma spoke next.

“That monument was put up for those boys from Lafayette County who died doing their duty as they saw fit,” Toma said. “They were defending their homes and many were not slaveholders. They felt their homes were under invasion.”

Following the Sept. 2017 discussion forum, the board voted to form a study group to consider contextualizing the monument.

“The Board was comfortable exploring contextualization because the University has recently taken similar action,” said Kevin Frye, former District 1 Supervisor. “After review, the majority of the Board was uncomfortable with the proposed language from the study group. So, the contextualization was never completed.”

Current members of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors were contacted by the EAGLE, but did not provide a comment on the statue. Jeff Busby, who was Board president in 2017 and currently serves as Circuit Clerk, was contacted as well and said he agreed with what Frye said.

At the time of the board meeting on Oct. 16, 2017, Busby said, “We’re going to study the situation and keep the public informed as we move forward.”

Busby declined to provide further comment.

The format for Monday night’s discussion will be different from 2017. According to a Friday afternoon post on the Lafayette County Facebook page, each group (those for and against moving the statue) will be given 30 minutes to speak.

Those who wish to speak must submit their names by 1 p.m. to Lisa Carwyle, County Administrator, at lcarwyle@lafayettecoms.com. The board will meet in Courtroom No. 1 in the Chancery Building. Due to Gov. Tate Reeves’ executive orders, the room can only have 25-percent occupancy. The meeting will also be broadcast live on the Lafayette County Facebook page, for those unable to attend in person.

According to Frye, in order to move the statue, the Board needs the majority to vote to move the monument to a more appropriate location.

“I don’t know how the Board will vote,” Frye said. “But I believe it is past time to find a more appropriate location outside of Oxford’s central business district and away from the grounds of our Circuit Court building. The remaining question presented by state law is simply, where is that place today?”