Confederate Monument Removed From Jacksonville Park After Being Condemned by Jaguars' Chris Conley

A statue honoring fallen Confederate soldiers in Jacksonville, Florida, has been removed just days after Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley called for it to be removed.

On Friday morning, Jaguars players and coaches joined a peaceful march as part of the Black Lives Matter protests.

When the march reached Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Conley spoke passionately about the need for justice and social reforms, before warning reminders of an era of racial divide remained prominent around the city.

"A confederate monument sits a couple of blocks from here, praising the south's dark past," he said, singling out a monument to confederate soldiers in Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville.

"Our revisionist history would tell us that it's there to honor men fighting for states' rights.

"But true history would tell us that, in the Cornerstone Address, Alexander Stevens said that our states are built on the fact that the negro is inferior, and slavery and subordination is its normal and natural state. That's true history."

Conley added the fact the monument still stood was particularly egregious given its location.

Hear the message from @FlightConley on the steps of @JSOPIOpic.twitter.com/CnbD7w4Fkc

— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 5, 2020

"This monument sits a block from where the Ax Handle Saturday happened in Jacksonville," he said referring to the day when a large group of white men attacked civil rights demonstrators in August 1960.

"A block from it, reminding people in this city of what's happened to them. True history would remind people that not only Confederate sympathizers butchered black people in the streets, but police joined them too."

Following the demonstration, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vowed to implement "policy initiatives and actions I will take to bring our city together and address racial inequality."

On Tuesday, Curry announced that all confederate monuments on city property and in city parks will be removed.

"If our history prevents us from reaching the full potential of our future, then we need to take action," he said in a press conference.

Last night, I ordered the confederate statue in Hemming Park to be taken down as the start of a commitment to everyone in our City that we will find a way to respect each other and thrive.

"My staff will work with the Jacksonville Cultural Council to convene experts in history and art to ensure we acknowledge our past in a full and complete way; a way forward that leaves no person's heritage or experience behind."

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, Brian Hughes, the city's chief administrative officer, explained Curry had decided to remove the statue in Hemming Park to "begin a process of balancing how we consider our past", while working together to build a future for everyone in Jacksonville.

"This statue and other Confederate markers will be safely taken down and preserved as artifacts until a collaborative process reaches consensus for their future," he added.

"The Administration and the Jacksonville Cultural Council will convene experts of local history and public art to build that community consensus."

GONE | Statue and plaque honoring fallen Confederate soldiers removed from Hemming Park in downtown #Jacksonville. I'm LIVE at 5 on @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/YiA6Raakcm

— Beth Rousseau (@BethANJax) June 9, 2020

Donated to Jacksonville in 1898 by Charles Hemming—whom the park took its name from a year later—the monument was constructed as a memorial to Florida soldiers and sailors who served during Civil War.

The monument to the Women of the Confederacy in Confederate Park, however, remains standing.

As of Tuesday morning, a petition on Change.org calling for the "Permanent and immediate removal of confederate monuments in Jacksonville" had reached over 2,000 signatures.

"Jacksonville is littered with statues and monuments that celebrate people who betrayed the United States, resented their citizenship, and waged a war against the Union in the name of preserving slavery and a white supremacist power structure," the petition reads.

"The fact that these monuments were erected during the Jim Crow days further preserves a dark history of racism in Jacksonville and the south in general and should be removed from the public immediately."

Conley wasn't the only NFL player to demand a clear break with the past. On Monday, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson called for Clemson to remove John C. Calhoun's name from the school's honors college.

Calhoun was a vocal advocate of slavery, famously describing it as a "positive good" rather than a necessary evil. Clemson's campus, where Watson and Hopkins spent their collegiate careers, sits on the site of Calhoun's Fort Hill Plantation in South Carolina.

Chris Conley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Chris Conley #18 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Carmen Mandato/Getty