The “Talbot Boys” monument should be removed from the county courthouse grounds, Talbot County Councilman Pete Lesher said Tuesday night.
Lesher is the first county councilman to call for the removal of the monument to the county’s Confederate soldiers (including some who moved to Talbot after the war) since a renewed effort began after the death of George Floyd.
Council President Corey Pack later asked council members to adopt a resolution to prohibit all statues depicting persons, signs of symbols of military actions on the courthouse grounds. He said the resolution would not prohibit monuments listing the names of Talbot County veterans of war.
The Talbot Boys monument has a statue of a young color bearer holding the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia atop a base listing the names of the Confederate soldiers. If Pack’s resolution was approved and applied to existing monuments, the statue would be removed but the base would remain.
The council discussion comes as the nation grapples with police brutality against people of color and amid demonstrations calling for racial justice and equality after the death of George Floyd while pinned down by Minneapolis police officers.
A peaceful protest last Saturday in downtown Easton attended by hundreds included calls for the monument’s removal.
During a public call-in comment period at its Tuesday night meeting, the Talbot County Council heard from several county residents urging them to remove the statue.
During the public comment period, Emily Thompson said she had emailed the council members about the statue’s removal.
“There will be a future Talbot County Council that will take this down,” she said Tuesday night. “You have an opportunity now to take action and listen to black voices. Are you going to wait and let your successors do the work you should have done years ago?
“All across the state and across the United States, we have seen true leaders,” Thompson said. “Show you don’t sympathize with rebels against the United States and white supremacists.”
“This isn’t history,” Benjamin Rubenstein of Trappe said in a call. “This is an opportunity for the county to act and take a stand. This is an opportunity for Talbot County to be a part of the solution.”
“I’m extremely outraged and disappointed” that a “symbol of slavery, white supremacy and racism” remains standing in Easton and Talbot County, Ari Rubenstein said.
“What side of history are you going to be on?” he asked. “We’re going to eradicate symbols of oppression. You need to be on the right side of history.”
Pack, who voted against a request to remove the monument in 2015 and 2016, said he had shared a written statement with his fellow council members before the meeting. Each council member spoke about the issue — some more directly than others — during council comments.
Pack, in his statement, said he was going to ask the county council to put a question on the November ballot asking Talbot voters whether the statue should be removed.
But to do so would have required action by the Maryland General Assembly, which completed its 2020 legislative session in a shortened session in March.
Pack, instead, offered his proposed resolution and also called for:
• a report outlining the county’s diversity training over the past two years and additional steps the county could take in the future;
• the drafting of a diversity statement to be included in the county employee handbook;
• putting a question on the ballot to amend the county’s charter to limit council members to two consecutive terms (a member could run for election again after sitting out a term);
• the council to send a letter to federal lawmakers supporting the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
Current council members Laura Price and Chuck Callahan had voted with Pack against the monument’s removal in 2015 and 2016, after the NAACP officially requested the monument be removed following the murder of nine black parishioners at a Charlotte, N.C., church by a white supremacist.
The issue arose again in 2017 after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., during which a counter-protester was killed and numerous others injured by a white supremacist who drove into a crowd.