Lexington mayor pushes to remove and relocate 2 Confederate statues

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, he is taking the steps to remove two Confederate-era statues from the lawn of the former courthouse.

Gray said in a statement Saturday he will ask the Lexington-Fayette County Urban County Council at its Tuesday work session to ask a state military commission for permission to take down the statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge.

"We have thoroughly examined this issue, and heard from many of our citizens," Gray said in a statement Saturday. "The tragic events in Charlottesville today have accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week. On Tuesday I will ask the Council to support Lexington’s petition to the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission, a required next step."

In a video statement posted online Sunday, Gray explained why he thought the statues should be moved from their place in downtown Lexington.

"It's just not right that we would continue to honor these Confederate men who fought to preserve slavery on the same ground as men, women, and even children, were once sold into a life of slavery," Gray said, referring to the history of Cheapside park as a former slave auction block.

"Relocating these statues and explaining them is the right thing to do," he said.

Mayor Gray says he has recommended to city council that the statues be relocated to Veterans Park, along with two monuments dedicated to the effort of Union soldiers.

WKYT's Caitlin Centner talked to Lexington residents about their thoughts on the announcement.

"I think they ought to just leave them alone and leave them where they are. They're a part of history," Don Martina said.

Conversely, another person WKYT spoke with thinks it's about time the statues be removed.

"There's a difference between acknowledging and learning about our history and glorifying it," Sarah Holton said. "I think if we're going to be a city that's welcoming to all people then it only makes sense that we should take down these monuments."

Violent clashes occurred Saturday between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville. Three people were killed, including a woman who died after a driver plowed into a group of peaceful marchers. Dozens more were injured.

The nationalists had gathered to protest the city's plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

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