San Diego Removes Confederate Monument Downtown
UPDATE: 12:45 p.m., Aug. 16, 2017
As cities and towns nationwide grapple with what to do with their Confederate statues, San Diego leaders on Wednesday took swift action to remove one from a park downtown.
A petition launched Wednesday morning on change.org asked for a plaque remembering the "Jefferson Davis Highway," named after the president of the Confederacy, to be cleared away from a sidewalk by Horton Plaza. The petition states: "We believe this monument has no place on any city or county public property, especially in a public park."
San Diego resident Jerry Hall said he started the petition after first noticing the plaque a few weeks ago. He said a monument honoring a figure who fought to defend slavery had no place in a public park.
"This isn't about preserving heritage," he said. "That's what museums are for, and areas where people can see it in context."
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, tweeted a link to the petition Wednesday morning, urging city council members to take action.
Just a couple of hours later, City Councilman Chris Ward tweeted the city had removed the plaque.
Ward, whose district includes downtown, said he first learned of the plaque's existence Tuesday night and asked city officials to remove it immediately in light of the racist violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. He said history can be remembered in history books.
"Public spaces or civic spaces right now should reflect the values of the citizenry," he said. "And as we are seeing across this country, people do not want to glorify or hold in honor individuals from our history that stood for bigotry and hate."
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer released a statement explaining why he ordered the "immediate removal" of the plaque at Horton Plaza:
"San Diegans stand together against Confederate symbols of division," he said.
The plaque's removal came several days after a confrontation involving white supremacist groups resulted in the death of a woman in Charlottesville. While Confederate symbols have been taken down across the U.S. over the last few years, the events last weekend hastened the removal of even more monuments.
Donna Derrick, a local member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, said she was disappointed the plaque downtown had been removed.
"I don't see any point in removing all of our Southern culture and the war between the states as if it did not ever happen," she said. "Whether we're proud of it or not, it happened."
The plaque states it was originally donated to the city of San Diego in 1926. According to the United Daughters of the Confederacy website, it disappeared not long after that. A new one was made and rededicated in 1956, and the plaque remained in Horton Plaza Park after the park's reopening last year.
The idea of a Jefferson Davis Highway was conceived by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration website. Portions of the route from Virginia to San Diego have been recognized by state and local governments, but the route was never officially named by the federal government.
Mayoral spokesman Craig Gustafson said the city would seek to return the plaque to the Daughters of the Confederacy.