Jackson County Executive Frank White calls for removal of both Andrew Jackson statues

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. is calling for the removal of statues of President Andrew Jackson, which sit outside courthouses in Kansas City and Independence.

The move comes shortly after the statue of Jackson outside the county courthouse in Kansas City was vandalized Thursday. Two people have been taken into custody for the act.

Jackson served as the 7th President of the United States from 1829 to 1837. During his lifetime, he enslaved hundreds of people.

White said he has been discussing the issue with other elected officials and coming up with a plan to have the statues removed.

The county executive said he intended to discuss the issue in a meeting of the Jackson County Legislature on Monday but decided to share his thoughts on the matter earlier than anticipated after the statue was vandalized.

County leaders have covered the statue in Kansas City until they decide what to do with both statues.

Andrew Jackson statues at the Jackson County Courthouse (left) and the Truman Courthouse (right)

White issued the following statement:

“One month ago, today, George Floyd was pinned to the pavement of a Minneapolis street by police officers. Like others across the country, those police officers had taken an oath to serve and protect everyone in their community, including Mr. Floyd. 

“Tragically, instead of upholding that oath, these officers chose to use the power given to them as public servants to kneel on the legs, back and neck of a man as he narrated his own death at their hands.

“Mr. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breath. Mr. Floyd pleaded for their mercy. Mr. Floyd begged them to get off his neck. Ultimately, Mr. Floyd used what little remaining strength and air he had left in his body to call out desperately and chillingly for his deceased mother. However, as we all know too well, his pleas for mercy, kindness and life were not enough to save him.

“Even after George Floyd’s heart had stopped beating and life had left his body, those officers continued to pin his body to the pavement, with a knee on his neck, for nearly two more minutes until paramedics arrived.  Mr. Floyd’s story and fate are sadly not unique, but our nation’s response to this most recent tragedy has been.” 

“In the month since George Floyd was tragically murdered, I have been inspired by the diversity of faces, voices, and ideas that have come forward and demanded we do better.” 

“What once could be described as a small minority pleading for change, has grown into a broad and diverse chorus of voices no longer pleading, but now demanding equality and making clear they will settle for nothing less.”

“I am hopeful that we are seeing a true shift in the minds and hearts of people regardless of their age, race, gender or political affiliation. As we move forward, we must acknowledge the role that racism plays in our community and our responsibility to take action, which may sometimes be unpopular, to ensure everyone feels safe, feels welcome, and ultimately, is treated equally in Jackson County. “

“Countless men, women and children come through the doors of our courthouses every day. And every day, racism and discrimination are staring them in the face. Statues of Andrew Jackson – our country’s seventh president and county’s namesake – stand outside two of our courthouses, public buildings where we want and need people to feel welcome.”

“Yet, they are greeted by a man who owned hundreds of slaves, opposed the abolitionist movement and caused thousands of Native Americans to die when he forced them out of their homeland for white settlement. As long as these statues remain, our words about fairness, justice and equality will continue to ring hollow for many we serve.”

“For these reasons, and in the interest of public safety, I am recommending that we remove these two statues.

“To accomplish this goal, on Monday, I will respectfully ask that the County Legislature form a special committee and begin holding public hearings immediately to discuss the removal of these statues, to receive input from members of our community, and to ultimately pass legislation authorizing the removal of these statues.”

“Pursuant to the Rules of the Legislature, the decision to create the special committee and subsequent assignment of Legislators to that committee will ultimately be decided by Chairperson Galvin.”

“I will ask that the Chair seriously consider, at a minimum, naming Legislators Williams, Anderson, and Finley to the committee.  These three Legislators have been vocal in their concerns about the statues and have been passionate advocates for criminal and social justice reform throughout their respective time in elected office.”

“I would also like to acknowledge Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker for reaching out recently to begin these discussions. I welcome the opportunity to work with the Legislature and fellow elected officials to find a better home for these statues where their history can be put into the appropriate context for us to learn from, but I am convinced that home is not in front of our courthouses.”

“Let me be clear – we can never erase history. It is already written. But we don’t need symbols to remind us of the decades of oppression endured by people of color when that is the very thing we are desperately trying to dismantle and heal from today. Like all great counties, this is an opportunity for us to change and evolve together, for the better.”

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