CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A change.org petition calling for the replacement of the John C. Calhoun Monument in Marion Square and the renaming of Calhoun Street is gaining support. As of 4:00 p.m. on Friday, the petition had 9,712 signatures, and a 10,000 signature goal.
The monument sits on private land, owned by the Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards, within a public park.
The petition, addressed to the Washington Light Infantry, Sumter Guards, Charleston City Council, Mayor John Tecklenburg, and whomever else it concerns, requests the John. C. Calhoun Monument be replaced, along with any other “similar statues etc. around the city,” and relocated to a museum. Those behind the request reason that “history is important to remember, but not all history should be celebrated.” They “do not feel that the statue of Calhoun, an adamant pro-slaver, represents the beliefs and ideology of Charleston today.”
The removal of the statue, in the eyes of those behind the petition, would “represent another step toward a more equal, compassionate, and stronger society.” In place of the statue, the group suggests a monument that acknowledges the legacy of slavery in this country, which would be “particularly fitting for the city that served as a port for more Africans than any other in the country.” The group is careful to emphasize that the acknowledgement of the unjust history in Charleston should not be seen as a bad thing:
“Are we ashamed of this history? Deeply. But are we ashamed to be Charlestonians today? No. We are proud. Because we are confident that we have come a long way since then and will only continue to grow together.”
However, the group also acknowledges that “this is not a high priority on the agenda of change right now” and “does not bring justice to anyone” despite being a step in the right direction. Further suggestions for more sweeping change include the reinvestment of funds, policy changes, and the inclusion of a more diverse group in community decisions. For example, the petition asks that “any decisions regarding the new names/structures…be made by members of the local black community in Charleston.” Additionally, they ask that a group of “citizens, police officers, and city council members” take down the statue together.
This is not the first time that activists have requested the removal of the statue; it has long been a point of contention in the Holy City. As calls for racial equality grow louder across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the group felt it appropriate to reintroduce the request.