The City of San Diego removed a plaque honoring Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, from Horton Plaza Park in downtown San Diego on Wednesday, Aug. 16, joining other cities around the country removing statutes and monuments to prominent historic figures of the Civil War era.
A petition, posted on Change.org, asked that the plaque be removed and was directed at San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Councilman Chris Ward, and President of the California Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Scarlett Stahl.
“San Diegans, especially our African American and other people of color community (sic), as well as the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, should not be asked to honor our nation’s racist past, nor support the continued racism and hate we see today around the nation,” the petition read.
The plaque was presented to the City in 1926 as a commemoration of the western end of the Jefferson Davis Highway in San Diego. It was removed several times before, but was replaced after renovations to the park were completed last year.
“We The People – insist on the immediate removal of this monument and the permanent restriction of any future sponsorship or hosting of this similar monuments by the City of San Diego,” the petition read. “America’s Finest City has no place for racism.”
Councilman Ward posted a picture of the plaque’s previous location via Twitter and wrote, “This morning we removed a plaque in @HortonPlazaPark honoring Jefferson Davis. Monuments to bigotry have no place in #SanDiego or anywhere!”
— Christopher Ward (@ChrisWardD3) August 16, 2017
The removal came amid a nationwide effort in recent years to remove confederate monuments, and after the recent violence that broke out after a rally cost the life of 32-year-old woman this past weekend.
On Feb. 6, the City Council in Charlottesville, Virginia, voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general, from Lee Park, and they also voted to change the name of the park to Emancipation Park. The Council gave staff 60 days to plan for the removal and the re-naming.
An application for a demonstration was submitted to the city May 30, but the City approved the application for a different location citing public safety concerns. A federal judge later ruled that the rally could take place at Emancipation Park.
On Saturday, Aug. 12, during the protest, called “Unite the Right”, white nationalist groups, neo-Nazis, and other supporters clashed against counter-protesters.
After hours of protests and clashes, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, allegedly drove his car into a group of counter-protesters that were marching down a street. One woman, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed, and 19 others were injured.
Videos of the incident shared on social media showed the car slaming into two other cars and counter-protesters, and then backing up in an attempt to flee the accident scene.
Fields was arrested and is now facing second-degree murder. Many are demanding that he be tried for terrorism, as he used the same tactic used by extremists in other countries, including an attack in Barcelona, Spain on Thursday, Aug. 17.
President Donald Trump was criticized for his initial response to the incidents, first by not mentioning white nationalists, then for placing blame on both sides and equating the counter-protesters with the groups that organized the rally in the first place.
Vigils were held in several parts of the country, including San Diego, to honor Heyer and two police officers who were killed in a helicopter crash that same day.
On Saturday night, Mayor Faulconer wrote via Twitter, “We must reject this violence. America is strong because we accept all are created equal. Praying for Charlottesville.” He followed that tweet by adding, “Our great nation must not tolerate white supremacy or any other racism. America is strongest when we stand together.”
Our great nation must not tolerate white supremacy or any other racism. America is strongest when we stand together.
— Kevin Faulconer (@Kevin_Faulconer) August 13, 2017
District Attorney Summer Stephan released a statement regarding the “hateful words and murderous actions” in Charlottesville and said the public in San Diego should not think they are at a safe distance from hate crimes.
According to the release, the California Department of Justice shows an 11 percent increase in hate crimes in San Diego County.
“We will not stand by and allow anyone to suffer abuse because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or for any other reason,” the statement read. “What we saw in Charlottesville is a bunch of thugs, bullies and criminals masquerading behind the freedom of speech.”
Events will be held this weekend in San Diego in an effort to unite the diverse communities of San Diego.
A free and open to all block party will be held on Friday, Aug. 18, on the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Utah Street at 6 p.m. as a “Celebration of American Values of Community and Acceptance.
Organized by the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, immigrant, minority and local small business owners will host a party to promote unification in San Diego.
“There’s no better place to bring all of San Diego together for a celebration of unity,” Marketing and Mobility Coordinator of the association, Beryl Forman, said in their release.
Sunday, Aug. 20, a “United Intersections of Justice Rally” will be held at the corner of University Avenue and Normal Street at 4 p.m.
“United we will stand against hate, in community, and hear from inspiring leaders calling us to action,” a post on the Facebook event read. “We cannot be silent and we cannot stop at simple condemnations of hate and violence.”