Is Ducey Just Giving 'Lip Service' to Black Community About Removing Confederate Memorials?

A monument commemorating the battle of Picacho Pass.
A monument commemorating the battle of Picacho Pass. Louis Lieb/Flickr
State Representative Reginald Bolding apparently has run out of patience with Governor Doug Ducey.

At a Monday morning press conference calling for the removal of Confederate memorials from public land, Bolding accused the governor of paying "lip service" to the black community. 

After nine black churchgoers were killed in a racially motivated attack in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, he reached out to the governor's office about renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, a segment of U.S. 60 near Apache Junction.

"The message I gave at the time was simple," said the Phoenix Democrat, who is the only African-American member of the Arizona Legislature. "In light of everything happening, we can't go through our daily lives honoring symbols of hate, symbols of separation, symbols of segregation designed to tear us apart and deepen our wounds."

The governor's office offered support, Bolding said, "but, unfortunately, words without action were all my community received."

Nearly two years later, the name hasn't been changed. 

The movement to remove Confederate memorials in Arizona is currently experiencing a resurgence as New Orleans takes down the last remaining monuments to the Confederacy and cities including St. Louis and Baltimore consider doing the same.

A coalition of groups including the East Valley NAACP, Maricopa County NAACP, and Black Lives Matter PHX is calling Ducey to remove the six memorials to Confederate soldiers that are on public, state-owned land. Those include Picacho Peak State Park, the site of a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War.

click to enlarge A monument commemorating the battle of Picacho Pass - LOUIS LIEB/FLICKR
A monument commemorating the battle of Picacho Pass
Reverend Reginald Walton of Black Lives Matter PHX described the monuments as "a slap in the face to all Americans" and "a tool of terror."

"You might as well put up a banner that memorializes the KKK," argued Cloves Campbell, the publisher of the Arizona Informant, the state's black newspaper.

The argument frequently used in opposition to removing monuments to the Confederacy is that it erases history. But the community leaders who gathered at the Arizona Informant's office on Monday morning said that wasn't what they were trying to do. 

"They belong where history should be — and that's in museums," Bolding said.

It's not clear that Ducey has the power to unilaterally decide to remove all six monuments. His spokesman, Patrick Ptak, couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Monday morning, but told the Arizona Republic last week that it wasn't the governor's jurisdiction to make the the change.

click to enlarge A memorial to Arizona Confederate soldiers in Wesley Bolin Memorial Park - ROBINA/FLICKR
A memorial to Arizona Confederate soldiers in Wesley Bolin Memorial Park
Changing the name of the Jefferson Davis Highway would be up to the State Board on Geographical and Historical Names, Ptak said.

And the memorial to Arizona's Confederate troops, located in Wesley Bolin Memorial Park in front of the state capitol, is overseen by the Legislative Governmental Mall Commission.

But Bolding pointed out that Ducey could use his position to lead an effort to get those monuments removed.

"Many times in the legislature, we hear the governor take stands on issues that he cares deeply about, whether it's cutting taxes or promoting school vouchers," Bolding said. "If it's an issue that the governor cares about, it's an issue that the governor is willing to push forward."

"So for the governor to try and push the buck to citizens, or to a board that he appoints, is irresponsible. If the governor wants to continue to be the governor, I think he needs to show leadership and take executive action." 

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.