LIBERTY — While the city of Liberty has taken steps toward legal ownership of Block 174 of Fairview Cemetery, which includes a Confederate statue and memorial marker at the heart of a debate in the city about race relations, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. and the Missouri Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans have asked for a permanent injunction, declaratory judgment and court order to stop the city.
Those opposed to the statue’s removal, contend the city has no right to own the land.
“The decision by the city of Liberty is unsupported by, and is in fact, in direct contradiction to, competent and substantial evidence on the whole record; is unauthorized by law; is arbitrary, capricious and/or unreasonable; is unconstitutional; and involves an abuse of discretion,” states the motion to stay from the SCV.
The city made the decision to move forward with taking legal ownership of the embattled cemetery land last December.
The ownership of the land has been a debated topic for more than a year among city leaders and historical groups as some contend the land the statue sits on is a privately-owned cemetery plot while the overall cemetery is owned and operated by the city.
Hours of public comment have been given to the city council during public meetings on the matter, with a mixed bag of those who want to see it taken down or moved because of its racist implications and those who want to retain it for historical value.
Members of Clay Countians for Inclusion are some of those who seek removal of the statue and monument pillar. Member Theresa Byrd said growing up, she changed her route through the cemetery to avoid the monument because of its racist undertones.
“Even today, when I go to decorate the graves of my relatives in the cemetery, I avoid the monument,” she said.
In a statement, the group shared, “Clay Countians for Inclusion is grateful for the Liberty City Council’s decision to pursue revestment of Block 174 in Fairview Cemetery. We continue to support the removal and relocation of the Confederate monument that is located in that block. Our overall purpose is to eliminate racism and embrace equity, diversity and inclusion in our community. Doing so is more difficult as long as this monument to racial hatred continues to stand in a city-owned cemetery.”
During public comment at the Monday, Oct. 25 council meeting, Gieselle Fest asked the city to withdraw revestment efforts.
“The city doesn’t own it,” she said. “That is sacred, holy ground. It is a place for local men. In Clay County, we take care of our own. Please consider withdrawing the suit.”
Dwayne Holtzclaw also asked that revestment be stopped.
“I have relatives buried there,” he said. “That is their grave. I just ask you to stop.”
According to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the statue serves as a memorial to Clay County residents who were veterans of the Missouri State Guard or the Army of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and serves as a marker for nearly two dozen unmarked graves of veterans and their family members.
More details on this continuing story will be published as they become available.