ST. LOUIS • U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay has asked St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to remove a controversial Confederate monument from Forest Park.
In a letter delivered to Slay’s office, Clay wrote: “Let us lead and influence how we are perceived by the world ... as a force for good, and in solidarity with those advocating racial healing.
“Symbols associated with this country’s racist, oppressive past should not be elevated or displayed in public places.”
The topic has garnered renewed attention in the wake of a national discussion about the use of the Confederate battle flag after nine parishioners were fatally shot in a black church in Charleston, S.C.
Clay and Slay, both Democrats, have been close political allies, making the rare public letter noteworthy.
Clay’s office issued a media release on Monday after the letter was delivered.
In April, Slay posted a question on his website asking whether the granite memorial should be removed. He called for a “centennial reappraisal committee” to determine if the marker should be relocated.
That never materialized, so Slay said he dispatched Eddie Roth, the city’s director of human services, to research and consider the memorial’s fate.
Clay’s letter said he appreciated Slay’s offer to facilitate a conversation on the issue earlier this year.
Slay’s spokeswoman, Maggie Crane, said the two spoke about the letter on Friday, and that Clay wanted to be on the public record about his position. She said the mayor is glad Clay is voicing his opinion.
“We started this conversation months ago, well before the recent national attention,” Crane said.
Crane said a decision on the matter is expected sometime this summer.
The 32-foot-high granite shaft depicting “The Angel of the Spirit of the Confederacy” was presented to Forest Park in 1914 by the Daughters of the Confederacy of St. Louis. It is located just east of the Missouri History Museum.
Last week, it was targeted by vandals and painted with the words “Black lives matter,” a slogan from the Ferguson protests.
Missouri was a border state during the U.S. Civil War, when it sent troops to fight for both the Union and Confederacy. The state was also represented with a star on the Confederate flag.
Clay also said he is teaming up with U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., to ban the Department of Veterans Affairs from allowing the display of the Confederate flag at national cemeteries, including Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County.
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