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Handful Of Protesters Demand Return Of Robert E. Lee Monument In Franklin

Jess Mador
Some residents of Franklin, Ohio, protested the removal of a monument to Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

More than a dozen people on Saturday waved Confederate flags and called for the return of a Confederate monument to its historic location in the Warren County city of Franklin.

The stone-based bronze plaque had sat for decades at the intersection of Dixie Highway and Hamilton Middletown Road before being taken down by city officials overnight last Thursday. 

No major incidents were reported at the gathering, which drew honks and waves from passing motorists throughout the afternoon. 

Some Franklin residents say they’re frustrated over the city’s handling of the situation.

Franklin Township resident Becky Graham attended the rally with several of her neighbors, and told WYSO the Robert E. Lee-dedicated monument should be returned to its rightful place in the community. 

“It’s been here for 90 years, why remove it down now?" Graham says. "I understand people don’t like it. Don’t look at it. There are things that I don’t like that I just overlook. There are more important things in life, more important things than a monument that has been there for 90 years. It’s our history. You can’t change history."

City officials cited public safety concerns as a factor in the decision to remove the plaque from the busy intersection.

Credit Jess Mador / WYSO
Franklin residents Cathy Fisher, Juanita McGuire and Becky Graham participated in a pro-Confederacy rally Aug. 19, 2017, at the former site of a Confederate plaque.

Officials did not announce in advance that the monument, originally erected by the organization United Daughters of the Confederacy, would be taken down.  

Before its removal, the Dayton branch of SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) had announced plans to protest at the site in remembrance of the victims of recent attacks in Charlottesville, Va. Those protests moved to Centerville, where over two dozen people took part in a coordinated national day of action.

“That’s not the country I’d want to leave for my children," said Miami Township resident Brielle Maynor. "I’d like us to be making progress on these questions of equality and justice for all. That’s all. It’s pretty simple. It should be pretty simple, but I guess it’s not and we keep having to have these conversations."

The protesters said they also hoped to call attention to former Centerville residents who allegedly participated in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. But city police confirmed to WYSO those men no longer live there.

At the Franklin Township site, 41-year-old Robert L. Fisher Jr. - who waved a Confederate flag - says it's important to preserve Confederate monuments, even when they may be seen as offensive by others who oppose what Confederate symbols represent.

Credit Jess Mador / WYSO
More than a dozen people waved Confederate flags and called for the return of a Confederate monument to its historic location.

“How will we teach our kids when we no longer have none of our monuments for the history? They’re erasing our history from right beneath our feet," he says. "No one’s history should be taken from them, no matter what it is.”

Fisher and other residents say they hope the city of Franklin will hold a meeting to hear public input on the future of the monument. Fisher is offering his own front yard as a potential new home for the stone.

On Friday, a monument to Confederate general Roswell Ripley was removed from a private home in Worthington, citing similar concerns about protests. And a canvas painting of Confederate brigadier general John Hunt Morgan was taken down from a state park lodge in eastern Ohio.

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding Americainitiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.