Charleston, South Carolina city councilman Harry Griffin took to social media on Wednesday to decry the destruction of a monument honoring the late U.S. vice president John C. Calhoun – and to accuse mayor John Tecklenburg of lying to him about its removal.
“I am ashamed as your city councilman,” Griffin wrote. “I am ashamed because I took a vote and made a promise that evidently I could not keep.”
“Everything that was told to me was a bald-faced lie,” Griffin added, referring to multiple promises made to him by Tecklenburg prior to the removal of the statue.
Specifically, Tecklenburg vowed the statute would go to a museum – specifically the famed Charleston Museum , according to Griffin. The councilman also said Tecklenburg promised him he had secured support for the monument’s removal from the owners of the property upon which it stood – when he in fact had issued them an ultimatum.
Finally, Tecklenburg “acknowledged over and over that in no way, shape, or form would he push for the destruction of this statute, only to move it to a more proper place,” according to Griffin.
Did Tecklenburg keep that final promise any better than he did the others?
Take a look …
(Click to view)
So much for learning the lessons of history …
To recap: A 12-foot, eight-inch, 6000-pound bronze statute of Calhoun – a scroll clutched in his left hand – was placed atop a 115-foot stone pedestal in Marion Square in downtown Charleston, S.C. on June 27, 1896. It stood there unmolested until 5:30 p.m. EDT on June 24, 2020 – when work crews hastily contracted by the city sawed it off from the base following a unanimous vote by city council.
Griffin now says he regrets casting his vote in support of that resolution.
“I took a vote to move the statue from Marion Square to a museum,” he wrote. “After the actions today, I know that will never happen.”
Griffin probably should have known that a long time ago … as museum officials made it abundantly clear when the statue was about to come down that they were not on board with Tecklenburg’s plan.
“We would certainly consider accepting the statue at a future date,” museum president Douglass Sass wrote in a letter to Tecklenburg dated June 16, 2020, adding however that “significant planning would be required and we cannot commit to a decision of this magnitude in such a limited period of time.”
“We had an opportunity to do something great,” Griffin added. “We could’ve contracted a minority business to remove the statue properly, found the appropriate museum for it to go, and made the ultimate compromise between our citizens. Instead, we destroyed it. We were lied to over and over.”
The removal of the monument was the opening salvo in an ongoing purge of antebellum Southern history/ War Between the States history precipitated by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day. That incident sparked global unrest and lawlessness … including violent riots on the streets of downtown Charleston, S.C. which city leaders did little to try and quell.
According to Griffin, the fallout from these riots played a key role in Tecklenburg’s campaign to remove the statue.
“The motive to me is clear: The mayor needed to move the focus from the destruction of the riots of May 30th to the removal of the John C. Calhoun statue,” he wrote.
Griffin also raised questions about the way the city chose to subsidize the statue’s removal. According to the councilman, $100,000 was pledged by a “private donor” toward the removal of the statute – with the city chipping in the remaining $38,000. That strikes us as a highly irregular and improper co-mingling of public and private funds.
Seriously … since when did government become a “pass-through” organization for ideologically driven donors (of any stripe) to anonymously subsidize their political activism?
Griffin also accused Tecklenburg of misrepresenting the true cost of the project – which has yet to be fully disclosed (or properly bid upon in accordance with city procurement policies).
We will keep an eye on that situation as it develops …
Widely regarded as the Palmetto State’s most prominent historical statesman, Calhoun served as vice president from 1825-1832 under presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He was best known for his advocacy on behalf of nullification – the doctrine that states could refuse to enforce acts of the federal government they deemed to be unconstitutional.
Calhoun was also an outspoken proponent of the institution of slavery, calling it a “positive good” and once arguing that “there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.”
This news outlet objected to the removal of Calhoun’s statue – not because we endorsed his views on slavery but because we do not believe in erasing history. Instead, we believe history should be put in its proper context.
We have also written extensively on how the removal of this statue could set a terrible precedent … launching South Carolina down a slippery slope.
“Seriously … where does it stop?” we wrote back in June.
Most importantly, such heavy-handed tactics clearly do nothing to “unite” people … particularly when politicians like Tecklenburg shamelessly and repeatedly lie in pursuit of advancing their agendas.
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