Recounting history and the Constitution, prominent lawyers argued their case against the Confederate monument to about 100 people gathered to protest the statue on the lawn of the Talbot County Courthouse Tuesday evening.
JoAnn Asparagus, magistrate of the Circuit Court for Caroline County for nearly 20 years, described Mississippi’s embrace of slavery, role in the Civil War and Jim Crow-era laws. But, she said, during this recent Nov. 3 election, citizens voted to get rid of their Confederate-themed state flag.
“If they can do it in Mississippi, surely we can do it in Talbot County,” she said, referring to the monument dedicated in 1916 during the Jim Crow era to intimidate Blacks. And she added: “If we do not come to the point that we agree that all men are created equal, it will be our demise.”
Asparagus was one of four speakers at the rally, the sixth held by the nonpartisan Coalition to Move the Monument. It was part of an ongoing commitment to gather the nights the Talbot County Council meets to send the message that their 3-to-2 vote to leave the monument in place does not represent the sentiments of the majority of Talbot County’s citizens, who will continue to push for its removal.
Michael Pullen, who served as Talbot County attorney for 24 years, contrasted the founding principles in the Declaration of Independence that maintained that “All men are created equal,” with those of the Confederacy, which explicitly stated Blacks were not.
“Those who claim that removing the statue would change history—well, I wish we could erase 400 years of history that included slavery…Believe me, I would if I could,” he said. “But three members do have the power to remove that monument.” Council members Laura Price, Chuck Callahan and Frank Divilio voted on Aug. 11 to keep the monument. Members Corey Pack and Pete Lescher voted for its removal.
“I am asking them to reject the principles of White supremacy and to adopt principles of equality under the law,” Pullen said.
Retired labor lawyer Keith Watts reminded the audience that the courthouse lawn was the site of a former slave market. “Imagine waking up each day as a slave and knowing what the drill is,” he said.
“We have to convince the County Council what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes,” he said. “We are not advocating erasing history. We are advocating its relocation. The time has come for it to go.”
Ryan Ewing, a public defender and a descendant of one of the Confederate soldiers whose name is on the monument, said it violates the presumption of fairness and justice for all.
“Does the appearance of this statue on the lawn give anyone the sense they are going to get a fair trial?” he asked.
“If slavery is our original sin,” he said, “then the Confederate monument is our mark of Cain.”
Other Ewings are named on monuments in Talbot to wars they fought to defend freedom, he said. “I won’t miss this statue one bit.”
The next rally will be 6 p.m., Nov. 24. For more information, contact Ridgely Ochs at email@example.com.