Confederate plaque in Franklin removed overnight

Removal follows confusion over ownership

FRANKLIN, Ohio -- A Confederate monument at the corner of Dixie Highway and Hamilton-Middletown Road came down in the early morning hours Thursday, after all.

Sometime between midnight and 3 a.m., public works crews removed a large rock with a plaque affixed honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to "assure the safety of the crews performing the work, as well as to secure the monument from potential damage."

The monument is intact, according to Acting City Manager Jonathan M. Westendorf. The city plans to return it to Franklin Township officials, but where it will eventually end up remains unclear for now.

City of Franklin officials said Wednesday that the monument is in a public right of way for Dixie Highway, and therefore is a hazard that must be removed. Earlier that day, Franklin Township officials had said they would not remove the Confederate monument after violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, they later learned that the monument is actually in Franklin, the city, so it would not be theirs to remove.

The land it sits upon did not become part of Franklin until it was annexed for Dixie Highway in the 1990s, which means that the land and monument were located in Franklin Township when it was erected in 1927 and for the following six decades, according to Franklin city officials.

Franklin city officials also said they had been unaware of the monument until Wednesday. 

Someone stuck a sign in the ground where the Confederate plaque once stood at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

City officials around the country have worked to remove several Confederate monuments after a counter protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed Saturday after white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Franklin Township Administrator Traci Stivers said in a news release officials “have not discussed removing this piece of history from our community.” The monument was erected in the 1920s, the release said, and “until recently, the historical monument has never been cause for concern or debate.”

Beth Callahan, president of the Board of Trustees, said she didn’t know there was a Confederate plaque in Franklin Township. She wasn’t alone; resident Carisa Pade didn’t know about the monument either, but she said she thinks it should stay.

"I think it's a part of our history, and I think we don't have to agree with what he stood for or what other people believe he stood for, but we certainly have to remember what happened because if we don't learn from our mistakes how are we going to get better,” Pade said. 

So far, Confederate memorials have been removed in Baltimore and Gainesville, Florida. Four people were arrested in Durham, North Carolina after a Confederate Soldiers Monument was pulled down Monday.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said on Twitter Saturday he is “taking action to relocate Confederate statues.”

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