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Capitol Plans Shouted Down

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  • DaNptAl@aol.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2001
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      << Capitol plans shouted down

      By Mike Cason
      Montgomery Advertiser

      Plans to reshape the grounds of the State Capitol met stiff opposition
      from Confederate
      heritage enthusiasts during a public hearing Monday night in the Capitol

      The Alabama Historical Commission held the forum for public input on
      plans to use about $6
      million in federal funds to lessen the slope leading up to the entrance,
      plant trees, replace
      parking places with more green space and narrow Dexter Avenue's approach
      to the Capitol.

      Shouts of "send back the federal money" rang out from the crowd that
      packed the auditorium.
      Many said a statue of Jefferson Davis should not be moved and more money
      should be used for
      restoring the Confederate Memorial on the Capitol's north lawn. They
      also generally objected
      to any new monuments commemorating the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights
      march of 1965.

      "If you really want to beautify the Capitol, put the flag back on the
      dome," said Robert
      Powell of Montgomery, referring to the Confederate battle flag that was
      removed in the early
      1990s. Powell's statement drew thunderous applause.

      Others lined up at the microphone to speak. Almost all opposed the

      Lee Warner, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission,
      presided over the forum
      and presented slides showing proposed plans. He said the slides
      represented a concept but
      that no plans were final. He said no decision had been made on moving
      the Jefferson Davis
      statue or others.

      "We want participation in these decisions," Warner said.

      The Capitol is recognized as a national historic building for its role
      as the birthplace of
      the Confederacy. Allen Cronenberg, chairman of the Historical
      Commission, said there are also
      plans to recognize the Capitol for being the site where the voting
      rights march ended.

      That idea drew heated opposition.

      Leonard Wilson of Jasper brought a 1965 copy of Ebony magazine with
      photographs that he said
      proved the march did not reach the Capitol, only the area in front of

      Avery Hudson, division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
      said it would be
      historically wrong to portray the march as ending at the Capitol.

      "I don't see how you can take tax dollars and reinvent it when it's
      historically correct,"
      Hudson said.

      Only a few blacks were in the crowd, which at its peak probably numbered
      more than 200.

      Nathan Riley was the only black who spoke during the first two hours of
      the forum. Riley is
      director of the National Historic Trail Foundation, which is at work on
      commemorating the
      Selma-to-Montgomery route.

      "The Civil War was an institution that was necessary at its time," Riley
      said. "The civil
      rights movement was also necessary during its time."

      Riley said both should be recognized at the Capitol, partly because they
      would be a good
      tourist attraction.

      Birmingham pastor Charles Baker said the march did not compare in
      historical signifigance to
      the founding of the Confederacy.

      "We're comparing the great forming of a nation to a march," Baker said.

      Many in the crowd objecting to any changes that would affect the
      "hallowed ground" where
      Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy in 1861.

      "That's sacred soil to us," said Ellen Williams, a retired school
      teacher from Washington
      County. >>
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