LIBERTY, Mo. — This week the Sons of Confederate Veterans announced the group’s leaders would be “exploring legal action” against the city of Liberty in a dispute over a Confederate monument in the city’s Fairview Cemetery.
The 23-foot-tall monument, topped off with a generic Confederate soldier, has been in the cemetery since 1904. In recent years, the marker has been a flashpoint for controversy.
For some residents, like Gieselle Fest, the monument is an appropriate honor for the local Confederate veterans buried there.
“We’re spending a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of energy on these dead guys,” Fest said while holding an ancient photo of the Civil War veterans. “This is a Potters Field for guys that came back from the war, that’s all it is.”
Last week, the Sons of Confederate Veterans commissioned a soil study using ground penetrating radar to confirm veterans are buried near and around the monument.
Fest believes that bolsters the argument that the monument should stay.
“Desecrating holy ground,” Fest said. “It’s a cemetery. Who goes and digs up a cemetery? That’s not right.”
David Sallee, with Clay Countians for Inclusion, a group pushing to remove the monument, rejects that assertion.
Sallee insists the marker can be moved without disrupting any graves.
“We absolutely do not want to desecrate any graves or remove any graves,” Sallee said.
Sallee maintains the Liberty monument came from a time period, decades after the Civil War, when the Daughters of the Confederacy offered a romanticized version of the Confederacy that glosses over the issue of American slavery.
“What they wanted to do was to defend the soldiers, defend the individuals and deny the cause, which was slavery,” Sallee told FOX4. “And so they tried to reshape that narrative, and they were very successful in doing so.”
Sallee said the monument remains a painful eyesore for many in Liberty.
“As with hundreds of other similar monuments built between 1900 and 1920 around the country, it was built to intimidate African-American people.”
People on both sides of the debate believe it will ultimately be up to city leaders in Liberty to settle the dispute.
Through a spokesperson, city leaders in Liberty said the city council has not yet taken an official position on this issue.