August 3, 2015

Albuquerque removes Confederate flag from Old Town; ‘inaccurate plaques’ coming down

Print

Stars and Bars Confederate Flag Photo by Joey Peters

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced Monday that some Confederate imagery on Old Town Plaza, including a Confederate flag, would be removed.

Stars and Bars Confederate Flag Photo by Joey Peters

Stars and Bars Confederate Flag that flew over Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque. Photo by Joey Peters

Berry announced his plans in a long Twitter post this afternoon.

“Those who consider the flag and artifacts to be nothing more than markers of history, should consider those who are deeply offended by the Confederate flag flying in Old Town because they view it as a celebration of an ideology that did not recognize all men as equal and an affront to those who died to ensure freedom for all,” he wrote.

Still, Elder Michael Jefferson, who organized a coalition of community leaders and lawmakers around the issue, called on Berry to remove all Confederate-related imagery in Old Town.

“We commend the Mayor for removing the Confederate flag and some of the Confederate imagery in Old Town,” Jefferson wrote in a statement Monday evening. “We continue to believe that the replica cannons used by the Confederate Army in Old Town and the accompanying plaque must be removed because of their historical inaccuracy and bias toward the Confederate Army.”

Albuquerque’s Old Town Plaza contained a Confederate Stars and Bars flag and plaques dedicated to the Skirmish of Albuquerque, buried Confederate soldiers as well as two replicas of canons Confederate soldiers used against Union troops. The flag was removed at the same time that Berry made his announcement, according to Albuquerque Journal reporter Dan McKay on Twitter.

The coalition of civic leaders and lawmakers organized a campaign to remove the imagery last month. The push came after a racially charged mass shooting at a historically black church in South Carolina renewed discussion of displaying Confederate imagery on public property across the country.

The group met with Berry about the issue last Friday.

“After taking all of this into consideration, I have determined that the City of Albuquerque will no longer fly the Confederate flag over Old Town,” Berry wrote. “It will be returned to its owner or donated to the Albuquerque museum and replaced by the City of Albuquerque official flag.”

A City of Albuquerque flag has already replaced the Stars and Bars.

Berry is also ordering the removal of two plaques that he wrote are “historically inaccurate” and “imply bias.” They are the plaques commemorating the Skirmish of Albuquerque and buried Confederate soldiers.

No evidence suggests Confederate soldiers were buried near the Plaza during the Civil War.

The Skirmish of Albuquerque plaque reads, “Though outnumbered six to one, a small detachment of Confederates under Captain William P Hardeman repulsed the attack and maintained possession of the town.”

As New Mexico Political Report noted last week, that plaque doesn’t mention that the Skirmish was more of a test of Confederate strength from Union Col. Edward Canby. He stopped firing when someone reported that Confederate troops were not allowing endangered noncombatants to leave the area.

The two replicas of Mountain Howitzer cannons that Confederate troops captured from Union soldiers and used against them will remain in Old Town, as well as a plaque written about them.

Berry wrote that they “continue to mark our important contribution to the fight for equality for all Americans by retaining the civil war era cannons and plaques that accurately represent our place in the history of the Civil War.”

Jefferson, however, pointed to words on the Howitzers’ accompanying plaque that he argued still represent Confederate bias.

“The plaque states: ‘It is sometimes said that these two mountain howitzer canons “guard” the Old Town plaza. They represent a proud and important era in Albuquerque history,'” Jefferson writes. “If Mayor Berry proposes to keep the cannons and plaque intact, then he should remove the clear bias reflected in this statement that the Confederate Army fought for something we should be proud of.”

Jefferson also noted that the Howitzer plaque evokes the name of Confederate Maj. Trevanion Teel and was partially funded by his ancestors. Teel was a member of Knights of the Golden Circle, a precursor to the Ku Klux Klan that advocated for establishing an empire with Latin American based on slavery.

“If Mayor Berry wants to maintain historical accuracy and continues to insist on keeping the Confederate canons and plaque intact, then he should portray the full history of Teel that his pro-slavery, white supremacist views and not just the sanitized version represented in the current plaque,” Jefferson writes.

Updated with quotes from Elder Michael Jefferson. 

Read Berry’s full statement below:

Over the past several weeks, I have listened carefully to many members of our community who have brought passionately different perspectives regarding the issue of the Confederate Stars and Bars flag and the civil war commemorative plaques and cannons in Old Town. This debate has presented us with an opportunity to consider diverse viewpoints pertaining to how we should mark our history in an appropriate and respectful manner.
These diverse perspectives include those who feel strongly that the Confederate flag and any other Confederate artifact of any kind need to be removed from Old Town immediately. Others believe that the flag and artifacts are all valid historical reminders of the important role that Albuquerque and New Mexico played in the fight for freedom for all Americans.
There is much to consider here including consideration of facts and consideration of the very real and differing perspectives of our diverse city.
Those who consider the flag and artifacts to be nothing more than markers of history, should consider those who are deeply offended by the Confederate flag flying in Old Town because they view it as a celebration of an ideology that did not recognize all men as equal and an affront to those who died to ensure freedom for all.
Those who consider the Confederate flag, plaques, and cannons to be so objectionable that none of them have any appropriate use as markers of our history should consider that Albuquerque and New Mexico played an important and historically significant role in turning back Confederate plans for westward expansion; and there is merit in honoring the role we played at the place where that history took place.
As we consider all sides to this issue, we need to search for common ground and do our best to build a bridge connecting those who have fundamental differences of opinion – a bridge that will also foster deeper and more meaningful dialogues on other important issues facing us as a city, state and nation. And as always, carving out common ground will result in a compromise that may not please everyone.
After taking all of this into consideration, I have determined that the City of Albuquerque will no longer fly the Confederate flag over Old Town. It will be returned to its owner or donated to the Albuquerque museum and replaced by the City of Albuquerque official flag. The City will however continue to mark our important contribution to the fight for equality for all Americans by retaining the civil war era cannons and plaques that accurately represent our place in the history of the Civil War. Historically inaccurate plaques and plaques that imply bias will also be removed and returned to those who donated them.
We should never ignore our history; but we should also recognize and display our history in a way that is respectful to all those who it represents. By striking this balance, it is my hope that we can work through this debate as a community and build a strong foundation for future discussions of importance to us all.