OXFORD • The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday evening unanimously voted to reject a proposal to relocate the Confederate monument that prominently stands in the middle of the Oxford Square to another location of county-owned property.
The board, composed of all white men, was not initially scheduled to vote on relocating the monument. However, the board amended its agenda at the beginning of the meeting to include voting on the monument proposal.
Several board members said they did not believe that relocating the monument would cause genuine unity in the county and community.
District 4 Supervisor Chad McLarty said he had numerous conversations with African American friends of his and constituents in his district, but he did not have a conversation with any of them where they stated that “the monument was an issue to them.”
“I myself have been a victim of racism due to the color of my skin,” McLarty said. “I’ve also been a victim of police brutality. What I do know is there are a lot of bad people in this world, and no matter how many statues, flags or pancake boxes you take down, they will still exist.”
District 3 Supervisor David Rikard said he also consulted with African American leaders and constituents in his district before making a decision about how he would vote.
“I want to encourage our community to come together,” Rikard said. “There’s been a lot of divisiveness. And I will say that I believe the majority of our community is standing together. I think there’s a lot of outside pressure, but I’m optimistic in Lafayette County and the city of Oxford.”
District 5 Supervisor Mike Roberts said he believed the biggest problem in the county currently is the issue of unity and the board is failing to find a way to be unified.
“You’ve seen us and our community and our county be drug into a national movement on police brutality. If you don’t think it doesn’t take a toll on these men and women who serve this county and protect it, you’re wrong,” Roberts said about local law enforcement officers.
The vote comes after the county officials allowed Lafayette County residents on June 22 to voice their opinion for relocating the monument and keeping the monument in its current place. One of the people who spoke in favor of relocating the monument was Don Cole, a former administrator at the University of Mississippi.
Cole was one of eight Black students at the university who were expelled and arrested in 1970 for protesting the treatment of Black students on campus. He later returned to the university to teach, and he became an associate provost.
Cole told the Daily Journal on Monday evening that the board’s vote was a mistake and he believes that “history will prove them to be on the wrong side and this particular battle will continue.”
“I suspect that much of the reason for their decision to keep it might very well be for political reasons and for maintaining their position,” Cole said.
The board’s vote comes at a time when other counties in the state have voted in favor of relocating Confederate monuments that are on county-owned property. The Bolivar County Board of Supervisors and the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors both voted on Monday to relocate Confederate monuments.