Descendants of Confederate soldiers have sued St. Augustine city leaders over their decision to remove a monument honoring the fallen ancestors.
The group, along with the Veterans Council of St. Johns County and the Military Officers Association of America’s Ancient City chapter, filed a lawsuit Monday that accuses the city’s mayor of trying to relocate the Confederate Memorial Obelisk without going through the proper channels. City commissioners voted to remove the statue on June 22.
A spokesman for the city told the Miami Herald that they cannot comment on open cases.
According to the complaint, the petitioners contend city officials got wrapped up in the “passion of the moment” and neglected to meet with the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB), a group of experts tasked with protecting historically significant structures, before making their decision. The group also argues that the monument, which is the oldest Civil War statue in Florida, differs from those constructed in the Jim Crow era.
“This monument was a communal effort, public art, and social history,” the complaint said. “Ex-soldiers and politicians had a difficult time raising funds to erect monuments so the task mostly fell to the women, the mothers, widows, and orphans, the bereaved fiancees and sisters of the soldiers who had lost their lives.”
Completed in 1872, the 30-foot obelisk contains an inscription reading, “Our Dead. In Memoriam, our Loved Ones Who gave up Their Lives in the service of The Confederate States” as well as the names of those killed in combat. The memorial has stood in Plaza de la Constitucion since 1879 and became a national historic landmark in 1970.
The complaint lists 38 descendants who are seeking the judge to rule that moving the monument without the advice of the HARB jeopardizes its safety.
They also want a temporary injunction that will forbid the city from moving the memorial until officials consult with the HARB and the court sees a feasible relocation plan. The group also wants to be able to find their own experts who can attest to the viability of moving the monument.
The lawsuit comes at a time when statues of historic figures are being torn down across the globe as people reexamine their legacies. NBC News’ running list of statue removals shows four Confederate monuments, including the one in St. Augustine, have been taken down. In Miami, statues of Christopher Columbus and Ponce de Leon were defaced during a protest in early June.