The Alabama Democratic Party is demanding that the mayoral candidates in Florence Alabama — Andrew Betterton and incumbent Stephen Holt — denounce white supremacists before their Oct. 6 runoff after months of tumult and protest in the city over what to do with a Confederate monument.
“Mayor Steve Holt has stated that he supports ‘differing viewpoints’ among the protests surrounding the Confederate monument in downtown Florence,” the party said. “One of those ‘differing viewpoints’ is literally the Ku Klux Klan. Amid violent threats to peaceful protestors, Mayor Holt still refused to denounce these ‘differing viewpoints’ from the KKK.”
The Democratic Party’s comments come after Holt, in July, said he would not condone “unlawful actions” and would support the Florence Police Department should they disperse demonstrations that “turn unlawful.” In the same message, Holt said, “First Amendment Rights apply to everyone. … We support the freedom of speech and the expression of differing viewpoints.”
The Alabama Democrats, in a press release Wednesday, also demanded that Holt agree to remove the confederate monument at the front of the Lauderdale County courthouse.
“If the mayor refuses to condemn the KKK and white supremacy, the statue on Court Street isn’t the only monument to white supremacy that needs to be removed, the Confederate relic serving as Florence’s mayor needs to be removed as well,” the party said.
This comes nearly four months after Holt recommend the statue be moved to Soldier’s Rest at the Florence City Cemetery.
On July 7, the Florence City Council unanimously agreed to move the statue, but deadlocked on whether it was the responsibility of the county (the statue is on county property) or the city (to whom the statue was originally donated).
Eventually the Florence City Council asked the county commission for a resolution to allow them to move it off county property. The county commission then cited the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which requires state permission before removing historic monuments, many of them Confederate monuments.
Earlier this month, a group of Florence residents filed a lawsuit against the mayor, the Florence City Council and the Alabama division president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Suzanna E. Rawlins.
The three residents asked the court to “to protect and preserve” the confederate statue at the county courthouse. The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee came out in support of that lawsuit.