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Mascots And Monuments: Ohio Starts Removing Confederate Commemorations

Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools
Willoughby South High School will still be known as the Rebels, but get rid of its Confederate soldier mascot.

At least four Confederate commemorations have been taken down in Ohio, in response to last week's Charlottesville, Va., clash between white nationalist protesters and anti-racist counter-protestors that left three people dead.

Those commemorations include a historic marker for Confederate General Roswell Ripley in Worthington, the painting of Confederate brigadier general John Hunt Morgan at the Salt Fork State Park Lodge, and a stone marker dedicated to General Robert E. Leein Franklin.

Confederate soldier mascot at Willoughby South High School, 20 miles northeast of Cleveland, will also be abandoned, although the school's teams will keep their name of The Rebels.

One Confederate memorial will remain: A monument to Confederate soldiers at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery on the Hilltop. About 2,200 Confederate soldiers who were prisoners of war are buried there, and the site was established by a Union solider.

However, vandals knocked overthe monument's faceless Confederate soldier statue on Tuesday morning and ran off with the head. Police are currently investigating the incident.

In a statement, Mayor Andrew Ginther said he stands with other city leaders around the country to remove celebrations of Confederate leaders, but called the destruction of any grave site "unacceptable regardless who was interred."

"I look to the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs for guidance as they consider the appropriateness of historical cemetery markers that remind us of the terrible costs of the Civil War, but do not celebrate the indefensible Confederate cause," Ginther said.

Ginther did not seem to support the removal of Christopher Columbus statues in the city, which were the focus of protests last weekend.

Historian David Bush of Hiedelberg University says the meaning of these Confederate symbols needs to be discussed.

“The climate in our country is such that these are questions that need to be dealt with," Bush says. "It’s probably a dialogue that's been way too long in happening.”

Protesters at the former site of the Lee monument argued that it's important to preserve Confederate monuments for historical purposes.

Bush says that's an understandable position, but the commemorations are currently removed from context. 

"I'm more for having the statues end up in historical settings where they can be interpreted properly and seen as part of a way of bringing the South back into the Union," he says.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.