ALLENDALE, Mich. — New recommendations were presented but no decisions were made on the future of a controversial Civil War statue at the Allendale Township board meeting on Monday.
In a unanimous vote, trustees approved a request by the Garden of Honor Memorial Committee to hold five additional meetings to further study the three possible solutions and make a final recommendation, which trustees could approve or deny.
The changes include:
- Replacing the statue with an abstract monument in the shape of a column or obelisk; No people would be show, but instead quotes on each side to represent various perspectives on the Civil War; The monument would be different from the others in the garden since, unlike other wars, the United States fought with each other
- Replace the statue with a statue of Benjamin Jones, an escaped slave who settled in Ottawa County and later served in the Union Army; The committee believes it will represent African American strength, rather than show a child who was or had been a passive victim of slavery
- Leave the statue as is, possibly repair it, and put a plexiglass screen over it in which various thoughts about the Civil War could be written on it
The committee said the last eight months brought challenging conversations and they tried to consider what the community could gain or lose.
Last June, the board called for a seven-member panel, made up of diverse members within Allendale, to be created to oversee any future changes to the statue following weeks of protests to remove it.
Several dozen community members described the statue as racist. It depicts a Confederate and Union Soldier standing side-by-side with a Black child at their feet holding a sign that says “Freedom to All Slaves.”
“Raising my family in such proximity to the Confederate Civil War statue in the garden of honor has been, emotional,” said Carina Freeman, a member of the committee. “The ideology that the statue represents makes me question if me and my family are really welcomed here.”
“To have a representation of our soldiers that accurately defends their honor and shows the unity and freedom that they've provided for us is really important to me,” said Christina Burna, another member.
Most people in attendance at Monday’s virtual meeting, including a few trustees, expressed support for option two. However, a few were frustrated by the continuation and said the statue is divisive and needs to be removed now.
According to Adam Elenbaas, township supervisor, the cost to continue the committee’s meetings is $2,250.
There is no timeline on how long it will take to complete the meetings, but Elenbaas said he expects it to be faster than the first five meetings.