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Charleston mayor calling for relocation of John C. Calhoun statue

By Ray Rivera and Patrick Phillips | June 17, 2020 at 7:57 AM EDT - Updated June 17 at 7:19 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg is calling for the relocation of the John C. Calhoun statue to a local museum.

On Wednesday afternoon during a press conference, Tecklenburg said he will be sending a resolution to City Council calling for the relocation of the statue. Council is expected to vote on the resolution next Tuesday at 5 p.m.

“We are taking this action only after careful consideration of the facts of Mr. Calhoun’s life,” the mayor said.

The mayor also addressed the Heritage Act, a state law which forbids the removal of war related markers in South Carolina. Tecklenburg said the law does not pertain to the Calhoun statue.

“Well folks, this is not a war memorial,” he said. “By [removing the statue] I believe we bring peace.”

Tecklenburg said he was confident that city council has full authority to order the relocation since the statue belongs to the city and is located on grounds owned by a private party.

The mayor said he would like the statue to be moved to a local museum or a higher education learning facility where it can be placed in full historical context, and be preserved and protected.

The announcement comes on the fifth anniversary of the Emanuel AME tragedy that took the lives of nine people. During the press conference, Tecklenburg read aloud the names of the victims and spoke about the tragedy.

“But in the days that followed, thanks to amazing grace and the deep faith of the families of the Emanuel Nine and the extraordinary act of forgiveness that so moved the world, the miracle of grace came upon our city, and set us on the difficult but essential road to racial justice and conciliation,” he said.

Hours after the mayor’s announcement, protesters spray pained and put signs at the base of the statue.

You can watch the mayor’s full press conference on his announcement on the statue below orcThis announcement comes the day aftercivil rights groups and some state lawmakers gathered at the base of the Calhoun monument to call for its immediate removal. Members of the National Action Network and the Charleston chapter of the NAACP want the statue relocated to stand over Calhoun’s gravesite at St. Philip’s Church in Charleston or in a museum.

“The time has come to take down the monuments to honor the evil that was done in the name of Charleston,” the Rev. Nelson Rivers III said at that news conference.

Charleston city spokesman Jack O’Toole said Tecklenburg, Charleston City Council and city legal staff members “have been working on this issue for some time.”

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard said he wrote a letter to Tecklenburg Tuesday asking for his help in taking down the statue.

“There is no room to say that you want to do something other than bring down that statue. There’s no room for compromise," Gilliard said. “Just bring that statue down. It’s the right thing to do.”

Carl Beckmann, the chairman of the board of The Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards, and who owns Marion Square, says in his opinion, "We’re of the mindset you can’t erase history and can’t change history.”

Calhoun, born in 1782 in Abbeville, South Carolina, was a statesman, serving in a variety of roles including U.S. senator from South Carolina, a U.S. secretary of state, secretary of war and the nation's seventh vice president. He died in 1850, 11 years before the start of the Civil War.

Calhoun’s support of slavery has prompted calls for the statue’s removal from Marion Square for years.

VIDEO: Charleston mayor calling for relocation of John C. Calhoun statue to local museum

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Photo: Live 5 News

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