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Confederate monument will be gone from Forest Park by Friday under new agreement

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ST. LOUIS • The controversial Confederate Monument in Forest Park will be removed by the end of the week under an agreement announced Monday.

In a settlement between St. Louis and the Missouri Civil War Museum, the museum agrees to remove the massive marker by the end of the day Friday — and perhaps much more quickly. Workers began rapidly deconstructing the monument Monday, shortly after the settlement was announced.

The museum will foot the bill for the move, and agreed to store the monument until a permanent new location is found for it. That permanent location must be at a Civil War museum, battlefield or cemetery, the agreement says.

The museum also agrees not to display the monument in the city of St. Louis or St. Louis County.

The Missouri Civil War Museum in Jefferson Barracks has expressed interest in taking the memorial for two years, but a potential deal fell through with former Mayor Francis Slay’s administration when the city wanted a say in how the monument would be displayed in the future.

The museum has since claimed ownership of the structure. The city has maintained that it owns the monument and began dismantling it before the museum went to court to stop its removal.

In a statement released Monday morning, Mayor Lyda Krewson said it was time to move forward on the issue.

“Although it is our position that the city controls the monument and would have prevailed in court, the city has entered into this agreement to avoid protracted legal proceedings and move forward immediately with the monument’s removal,” the statement said. “This is an outcome both parties wanted.”

St. Louis officials have discussed taking down the memorial since 2015, but it has proved to be a political and logistical challenge. It has also sparked a debate similar to those surrounding other Confederate monuments throughout the country, with some residents fighting to protect them as pieces of American history and others contending they are painful reminders of white supremacy.

The monument, on the north side of Forest Park on a road called Confederate Drive, drew several waves of vandalism in recent years. The city eventually stopped bothering to remove the spray-painted messages as they moved forward with plans to dismantle the monument.

The graffiti has ranged from “End Racism” and “Black Lives Matter” to profanity and the initials “FTP,” which stand for an obscene message aimed at police.

‘Lots of possibilities’

The agreement was signed Friday by representatives for the city, the Missouri Civil War Museum, the United Daughters of the Confederacy Missouri Division and the St. Louis Confederate Monument Association.

Jay Kanzler, an attorney for the Missouri Civil War Museum, said the plan Monday was to get as far as they can in removing it. “The key is to move it as quickly as possible without damaging it,” he said.

Kanzler said Mark Trout, founder of the Missouri Civil War Museum, was on site to oversee the removal.

Kanzler wouldn’t say where the monument will be stored, so as not to invite more vandalism. He said it will be in a fenced location in Missouri, not in the city or county. He said he doesn’t know where it will be put on permanent display yet.

“There are lots of possibilities throughout the state of Missouri,” he said, “where people have an interest in Civil War artifacts will go.”

The museum commits in the settlement to giving the city advance notice of where the monument will be placed.

Kanzler said his side liked the agreement because it won two key points: that the museum owns the monument and got to remove it.

Krewson told reporters Monday that a resolution was able to be reached once the museum formally agreed to bear the entire cost for removal. While Trout had publicly said the museum would raise money to take down the structure, she said she hadn’t received correspondence from museum officials before the lawsuit.

“(Trout) never made that offer to us,” Krewson said. “I know that he made it to the media.”

Patsy Limpus, president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Missouri Division and the St. Louis Confederate Monument Association, said she agreed to the settlement because she feared the structure would be destroyed, either by the city or by vandals. The agreement was the best way to save it, she said, though she would have liked it to stay in Forest Park.

“Because what had happened with the vandalism to it, and the city wanted it removed, this way it will be preserved,” she said. “It is a beautiful monument.”

Limpus said she doesn’t know where the monument will end up.

“We hope that it ends up being displayed again,” she said. “That is our hope. It is part of our history, and I think that it needs to be displayed. We have to learn from our history.

“Even though some people don’t like, it is part of history,” she said.

The city had already incurred some minor costs before the agreement, Krewson said, but those won’t be billed to the Missouri Civil War Museum. She said she’s been in touch with private contributors for its removal to let them know the bulk of the costs will be taken care of.

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who launched an online fundraising campaign to take the memorial down, said she would work with city leaders to transfer the roughly $18,000 in donations to help defray any public costs associated with removal.

The city won’t have a say in how the museum may display it in the future, but Krewson said she was pleased with a compromise ensuring it won’t resurface in St. Louis or the neighboring county.

“I think that this is a monument, really, to the Confederate initiative and to the preservation of slavery,” she said. “I would prefer not to see that located somewhere else in St. Louis city.”

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter.

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