JEFFERSON CITY • Two measures introduced for the new legislative session approach the Confederate monuments debate from different sides.
As such monuments have been toppled across the country recently, one bill would force their relocation to, essentially, a museum. Another would make it harder to remove them from their public perches.
“Our country is polarized due to systemic racism,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, whose Senate Bill 584 would require the moving of Missouri’s Confederate statues and plaques to a state park in Higginsville. “It’s time for those Confederate flags and monuments to go where they belong — in a museum.”
The bill also would ban the sale or display of Confederate flags on state property. In the Capitol’s gift shop Wednesday, a post card bearing the flag of Pindall’s 9th Battalion Missouri Sharpshooters, a Confederate unit, could be purchased for 50 cents.
By contrast, Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, has filed House Bill 1427, which would create a review process to remove or rename any war statue. The Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which votes on historical places, would hold a public hearing on any potential changes.
The bill applies to all conflicts America has been in, from the Civil War to the war in Iraq. Love said he introduced the bill because he was concerned about people taking down other people’s “objects of remembrance.”
“I would not be in favor of going around the state and rounding up monuments placed by people who were honored because of serving their state,” he said. “I’m not trying to carve anything that can’t be done. I’m just trying to give a process.”
Missouri has 20 confederate monuments, including names of courthouses and an elementary school in Columbia, according to a 2016 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. This past summer, the Confederate monument in Forest Park was removed.
Also this past summer, someone vandalized one in Springfield. In a Facebook comment, Love said the vandals should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.” He’s scheduled to face an ethics committee Thursday over the comment.
If the bill passed as is, defacing a monument about an American conflict would be a class E felony, which has a punishment of not more than four years in prison.
On the wall of his office, Love has a picture of his great-great-grandfather, who fought for the Confederacy, and his great-great-uncle, who fought for the Union.
“My great-great-grandfather did not serve to keep slaves,” he said. “Nor did my great-great grandfather who served in the Union serve in that war to free the slaves. He served because his state called him. ... They both did what they thought was right.”
Asked whether the monuments should be destroyed, Nasheed said she would like to go farther than moving Confederate monuments to a museum.
“They should be destroyed,” she said. “We won, you know?”
But that would be difficult legislation to pass, she said.
“You have other individuals, meaning other elected officials, that feel it’s a part of their history,” she said, declining to specify.
“Let’s put that history behind us,” she said. “The North won, so why are we highlighting Confederacy when you know and I know it was built on death and destruction of a race of people? It was built on prejudice. It was built on racism and bigotry.”
While Democrats have limited political capital, with Republicans controlling the governorship, the House and the Senate, Nasheed said her bill would pass.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Senate leaders said they’d probably focus more on other subjects.
“I haven’t read it,” Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, the president pro tem of the Senate, said of Nasheed’s bill. “I haven’t even thought about that. I’m more concentrated right now on some unfinished business from last year.”