A Florida mayor is under scrutiny after signing a proclamation to make April 26 “Confederate Memorial Day” in order to “honor the memories of those who sacrificed their lives in the War Between States.”
Ocala, Florida, Mayor Kent Guinn signed the resolution — which was not required to go through a vote — on Tuesday. In an interview with The Washington Post, Guinn said that the proclamation is “simply a memorial for Confederate soldiers who were veterans.”
But historian Kevin Levin, who specializes in the American civil war, blasted the move as “pure cowardice” in a tweet on Wednesday.
“This is pure cowardice. Ocala, Florida Mayor Kent Guinn signs a proclamation for Confederate Memorial Day, but no effort is made to say what the war was about or what it resolved. What "tragic events" between 1861 and 1865? Was the emancipation of 4 million people "tragic"?” Levin wrote.
Levin's tweet included a photograph of Guinn’s proclamation. The document states that the holiday will prompt people to “attempt to gain a better understanding of the conflicting ideals and passions that pitted brother against brother and tore a nation apart.”
Just after Guinn signed the order, the Ocala City Council President Mary Sue Rich immediately dissented. According to the Post, at the end of the meeting Rich said that the move “turns my stomach” and that this proclamation makes Guinn unfit to run for re-election.
“I don’t think you deserve to be the mayor of Ocala. I hope somebody runs against you,” she said. Rich later told reporters that while this topic is part of our nation’s history, that’s “where it should stay — in the history books and in the museums.”
“I don’t think we need to have a special day, in 2019, declaring ‘Confederate Day’ in the city of Ocala,” she added about her city of around 60,000 people, located approximately 80 miles north of Orlando.
During the meeting in which Guinn signed the declaration, Rich also alluded to alleged rumors that the mayor was involved in the Ku Klux Klan. The mayor then held a press conference on Wednesday to deny these allegations.
“I am not — repeat, not — in the KKK,” he said. “I never have been. I never will be, and I despise and hate everything that organization stands for.”
Guinn also listed other cities and mayors that have implemented similar holidays over the past few years, including Ocala’s former mayor Gerald Ergle, with “not one word of a problem.”