NAACP, Sons of Confederate Veterans debate Semmes monument removal

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Opposing views are clear in the movement across our country to remove Confederate monuments and statues in the wake of George Floyd’s death – with both sides right here in Mobile.

WKRG News 5 spoke with both sides: the president of the NAACP Mobile, Robert Clopton Sr., and the leader of the Mobile Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who wished to remain anonymous for this story. One side, feeling these monuments are symbols of a painful past, the other saying they are a symbol of their heritage.

The Admiral Semmes monument in downtown Mobile was removed on Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s order last week.

The admiral holds a special place for Mobile’s Sons of Confederate Veterans. It’s in their name as the Admiral Raphael Semmes Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #11.

When WKRG News 5 spoke with them, they said it is all about heritage for them.

“People with so little knowledge of history want to destroy what others hold so dear,” the leader of the chapter said. “I would just ask these people to look in their hearts and ask what joy does it bring you to remove the monuments of our fathers the people we hold revere.” 

Clopton, the NAACP Mobile president, says it isn’t about letting them cherish their forefathers but to not have to relive the pain of their own ancestors.

“We are not trying to deny or destroy a heritage in anyway shape, form or fashion,” Clopton said.

Although history cannot be changed, that is something they agreed on, saying these monuments represent that fact in very different ways.

“They tell a story not only by that person but by what they did for the history in the place for which they are,” the leader said. “The Semmes statue, for instance, was a site-specific monument.”

Clopton disagrees.

“They are not memorializing heroes,” he said. “They are glorifying a group that sought to defeat the United State of America, mainly to maintain slavery and ownership of human suffrage.”

But when will the removal and renaming period be over? An answer doesn’t seem to be in the books at this time.

“They are never going to stop, because these people can never be appeased,” the leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said.

“When will things end, I don’t know,” Clopton said. “However, I feel things are going in the right direction. Why should any race of people have to endure a memory as painful as the ones that are depicted through statues.”

As for now, it isn’t clear if or when the Admiral Semmes monument will be put back, even after the Attorney General asked the city why it was removed in the first place.

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