The Confederate statue that once stood in front of the Military Museum in MacArthur Park is gone for good, by order of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
He distributed a definitive statement about 9:30 p.m. Thursday that capped days of limited answers from the city that began with my inquiries Tuesday morning about the statue following vandalism to its base on Monday. The mayor’s statement:
On Thursday, the City of Little Rock removed the Memorial to Company A, Capital Guards statue from the grounds of MacArthur Park. The Capital Guards were a militia unit from Pulaski County that formed a company in 1861 to fight for the Confederacy when the Civil War began.
This statue, however, was erected during the United Confederate Veterans Reunion in 1911, a period of rampant segregation, inequality, and oppressive Jim Crow laws. It does not represent the values of our city today nor the diverse citizenry who stand for unity and justice for all.
As we have seen over the last several years, and now during this present unrest over the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and most recently Rayshard Brooks, diverse communities in Little Rock and around the nation have sounded the alarm about the offensive nature of celebrating the Confederacy in public spaces. Calls for removal of such Confederate statues have grown louder in recent weeks, and Little Rock residents have joined in. Although we do not know who may be responsible, the statue’s base was vandalized this week with what appeared to be gallons of varnish.
The statue that was removed from MacArthur Park did not provide the full context of the tumultuous time period, consequences of the war nor the legacy of the soldiers’ actions. The Capital Guards were memorialized without concern for those in our community who have suffered grave injustices and whose ancestors were viewed as less than human so that they could be subjugated to terror and forced to provide free labor.
Our parks belong to every resident of Little Rock, who support them with their tax dollars. It is our intent to ensure our parks are inclusive and welcoming for all. This statue was divisive and in opposition to this administration’s internal why-to unite Little Rock.
The statue will be stored until it can be determined where it will be transported. The base is covered and will also be removed soon. The City will work with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism to find a suitable place for the statue to be viewed in a comprehensive historical context.
Thursday afternoon, media reported that the statue had been removed and the site boarded up. The Arkansas Blog originally reported the vandalism Wednesday and the city’s response to my question about the future of the statute was that they had nothing to offer at that time.
It had taken two days to dig out bare information from the city’s private PR spokesperson on the vandalism. I wasn’t allowed to speak with museum officials.
The Capitol Guard statue, commissioned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to remember troops that seized the Union arsenal (now the museum) but ultimately were losers in the war to preserve slavery.
After some conflicting statements, I think I’ve pinned down that the city owns both the statue and land, but it granted the state a historic easement to the property in 2017 to preserve the old arsenal building in return for a $100,000 grant for repairs.
NOTE: This article has been substantially restructured from its original post and is updated to emphasize the Thursday evening statement from the mayor.