Liberty officials take action in debate over Confederate monument, searching for owner

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LIBERTY, Mo. — Liberty city officials have started the legal process to find out who owns a block of land where a Confederate monument sits.

City officials said they’ll give the owner 30 days to provide documentation to prove who owns the land. 

The monument in question depicts a Confederate soldier hovering over Fairview Cemetery in Liberty. The structure is adorned with a Confederate flag and the names of Confederate leaders, including Nathan Bedford Forrest who was a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  

“Typically, monuments face south like the Confederacy to recognize their connection with the south, but this was facing east,” said AJ Byrd with Clay Countians for Inclusion. “I think it was focused on the Black community to say to those citizens that [Confederates] are still in control and in power.” 

Clay Countians for Inclusion is leading the efforts to remove the Confederate monument without digging up the graves beneath.

The city doesn’t know if Block 174, where it sits, is public or private property, which limits its power. Over the next 30 days, Liberty officials will start the legal process to determine ownership.

Historical preservationist Giselle Fest said she has proof Confederate groups own it, and it should stay. 

“It’s just a matter of lawyers doing what lawyers do,” Fest said. “We’ve got a deed from 1900 and succession plans. We’ve got the National Corporation from the United Confederate Veterans. They deeded their property over to the Sons (of the Confederacy).” 

Fest said dozens of poor Confederate soldiers are buried beneath the monument. She said after this process, she hopes to direct attention to doing something positive with the monument and the cemetery. 

“Dead veterans are here. We need to stop fussing about the dead veterans,” Fest said. “We need to go and unify our cemetery and unify our community.” 

But some groups argue moving the monument is a step further to unite the city. 

“Why is the opposition fighting so hard to keep it knowing the negative impact it has on a great number of the community,” asked Theresa Byrd with Clay Countians for Inclusion. 

Notices will be published in the local papers and sent to potential property owners. If the 30 days pass and Liberty officials haven’t found an owner, officials will start the legal process of acquiring the land.

Groups against the monument say no matter the owner, they will keep pushing to take down the statue and move it to a museum. 

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