Lake City Votes to Sanitize Its Logo: American and Confederate Flags Coming Down
The Council Deliberated 17 minutes
Posted August 18, 2015 07:50 am | Final: August 19, 2015 06:20 am (3 comments)
LAKE CITY, FL – 14 years after City Councilman Eugene Jefferson moved to accept the present Lake City logo, a logo which added the Confederate Battle Flag and the American flag to the top half of the City logo, he seconded Councilman Zack Paulk's not unexpected motion to retire "the seal and develop another seal." Before the vote, James Shillinglaw of the Museum of Southern History, excused himself from the meeting, sharing with the City Council what many people in the audience came to articulate, "Southern lives matter – Southern lives matter." Assistant Chief Butler politely escorted him from the Council Chambers.
Addressing the City Council *
First up was Bea Faithful Coker, Lake City
Ms. Coker is a lifelong Lake City resident and community activist. Ms. Coker spoke about the different versions of the Confederate flag and her belief that Lake City was a city of brotherhood.
She told the Council: "We have a history of brotherhood. In 1860 we had a black man in Lake City owned property and he wasn't a slave. That's history to be proud of... That's a big deal. That's history that embraces diversity and it demonstrates what we are all about. What we've always been about... We should continue to be the gateway to brotherhood, because that's what we've always been..."
Ms. Coker continued, "I'm encouraging you guys to dig deep down. Use some time to get to know the history of Lake City -- what we've been about; what we should continue to be about; and really, just do the right thing."
Next up was Ms. Karen Scott, Middleburg, FL
Before she got underway, Mayor Witt encouraged her to share her feelings, "We've heard the issue. We want to know what everybody's feelings are."
Ms. Scott introduced herself: "Karen Scott, Middleburg, Florida. I am from Clay County."
Ms. Scott continued, "The Lake City motto is, 'Gateway to Florida,' and thank God those Confederate troops stopped the Union Army here, before they made it any further south. The heroes pictured on that seal are a small example of the many men who fought and died at Olustee. They were from all over. Those soldiers were everyday people like you and me. They prevented Lake City from being burned to the ground, pillaged, and destroyed, and they saved the lives of unknown numbers of people. So, these are my heroes; these are your heroes. Please don't disrespect them by removing and hiding their flag."
Next up was James Shillinglaw, Jacksonville, FL
Mr. Shillinglaw introduced himself: "I'm James Shillinglaw from Jacksonville, Florida. I'm on the board of directors of the Museum of Southern History. We're the largest Civil War Museum in Northeast Florida and South Georgia."
Mr. Shillinglaw continued, "This is a very unique town. The largest battle in Florida happened here outside of Lake City. That's why you have the two soldiers on the State [City] seal: the Union and the Confederates. The Confederate soldier was an American soldier. I think it would be really disrespectful -- dishonest if you change the seal. I don't think anybody's really noticed it. I think it's a beautiful seal. I can tell you, there is no businessman who has come to Lake City (saw the seal) and said, 'Look, there is a Confederate flag here. I'm going to turn around and leave.'"
Mr. Shillinglaw concluded, "I'm asking you, 'Keep the seal as is.' You'll be insulting more people by changing it, than if you don't. Please, do the right thing."
Next up was Kameron Williams, Mayo, FL
Mr. Williams explained that he was a recent high school graduate from Mayo, FL. He began, "That seal is our right to free speech." Mr. Williams said those soldiers were "fighting for every one of us." He said he didn't consider them Confederate soldiers, he considered them American soldiers. "They were American people," he said.
Next up was Adrian McCabe, Lake City
Ms. McCabe introduced herself: "I am the chief of staff for the North Florida League of the South. I am from Lake City. I am a city resident. My family has been here over 160 years. They did fight in Olustee."
Ms. McCabe continued, "This land -- the Southern culture -- it's my blood -- it's my people. I am not going to apologize for my ancestors, because there is nothing I can do about what they did over 150 years ago."
Ms. McCabe spoke about the NAACP resolutions to remove all Confederate flags. "Let me ask you. When is it going to end? First it's a flag; then it's our monuments; then it's erasing all Southern history; then it's erasing the Southern people."
Ms. McCabe spoke about Lake City economic development during the last three years. "I don't see the community shrinking. Obviously, the little seal isn't affecting too much. I don't think people passing by on the interstate are going to say, 'OK, we can't come here anymore.'"
Ms. McCabe concluded, "The past is the past; what's done is done; just leave it alone. Thank you."
Next up was Bradley Barlow, Lake City
Mr. Barlow introduced himself: "My name is Bradley Barlow. I live about six blocks from here."
Mr. Barlow told the Council, "The seal itself doesn't just show the Confederate battle flag. It shows the battle. The Olustee Festival brings in over $2 million a year in revenue. Mr. Barlow said that he saw new businesses springing up by the interstate, "If there was a problem with our seal and what our citizens believe in these people would not be trying to flock to our community. Please do not change anything about our seal."
Next up was Leon Duke, who restated much of what he brought up at a previous meeting.
Next up was Stephen Cassady, Jr., Lake City
Mr. Cassady introduced himself: "Stephen Cassady, Jr., 7th generation -- uncle, Robert E. Lee. I'm nothin' but an old redneck country boy."
Mr. Cassady continued, "I know several of you from this town that I have lived in for a long time. I know you all have good in your hearts. I know you know this flag stands for God, as well as our fallen soldiers. If you take it down, you might as well walk up to a grave and pee on it. What if it was your ancestors that fought in this war?
Mr. Cassady concluded, "Don't take our stuff: that represents God; it represents the South; it represents our history. If you take that, you might as well go out and take Martin Luther King stuff down."
Next up was Kit Carson, Lake City
Mr. Carson introduced himself: "Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight." Mr. Carson explained that before he was an attorney, he was a police officer.
Mr. Carson shared his experience with the Council, "One of the things I've learned is that people will view matters, individuals, and things however they want to. There is nothing that taking a small flag off of your logo is going to do to change that. The Lake City logo is part of Lake City's history. This city's population has not decreased because of that logo."
Mr. Carson concluded, "I don't think Lake City should insult its history based on the acts of a murderer and remove that flag from the logo. It will change nothing. Thank you."
Next up was Pastor John Edwards, Lake City
Pastor Edwards introduced himself: "My name is John Edwards -- pastor of a small church here in Lake City."
Pastor Edwards explained that before he came to Lake City, he was in Jacksonville and the people there told him he didn't want to go to Lake City.
Referencing the American and Confederate flags on the logo, Pastor Edwards explained that when he was in South Korea he did not see the North Korean flag flying next to the South Korean flag because "they [the north] lost the war."
Pastor Edwards read from an article he said he obtained from MSNBC. He read that the "Confederate flag was a flag born of a rebellion launched in defense of slavery and revived by a movement launched in defense of segregation. The Confederate Army was created out of the South's commitment to white supremacy."
Pastor Edwards continued, "When I think of that flag, I think of my great -- great -- granddaddy being hanged on a tree, under that flag. You guys are elected to decide it. Whatever you decide, I'm going to go along with it."
Pastor Edwards concluded, "I'm sad Olustee lost the battle, but I'm glad America won, because if it hadn't won, I would be a slave today -- and my kids would be slaves, because that flag stood for that."
Bruce Borders, Lake City
Bruce Borders, who began the discussion at a previous Council meeting, questioned whether or not the decision had already been made to remove the flag from the city logo.
Councilman Eugene Jefferson responded, "This council has not met in (unintelligible) form to address that issue and there is no pre-decision that has been made."
The final speaker, Bernice Presley, Lake City
The last speaker of the evening was Lake City/Columbia County retired educator, Bernice Presley, who smoothed the waters before the Council took center stage.
Ms. Presley told the Council, "Let's think about something good that represents the beauty of Lake City. Let's put something on the seal where everybody can see the beauty of Lake City."
The Lake City, City Council
The City made short work of its decision
City Councilman Zack Paulk was up first: "We have a seal that's offensive to some people... I think it's only right that we retire the seal and find us another group to create a seal that's more conducive to what we tryin' to do. Our logo should be somethin' as – come grow with us – we already have that sayin' already. Gateway to Florida; Economic Development, these are things that we need to be focusin' on... I can't sit here and say that I can support somethin' that's offensive to some people..."
Councilwoman Melinda Moses: "I thought I would get tons of emails and phone calls. I got 5 emails and two phone calls. I was really shocked by that... Some don't care; some are impassioned; the haters, and there are people that want it to come down because it's hurtful. "I've been conflicted about this. It's a seal for everybody," she said.
Councilman Jefferson weighed in, "I feel that we need to retire this logo in its current form and develop a new logo which is more conducive and representative to what our city's all about."
Mayor Steve Witt had his turn at the microphone, "We've had this logo for a long time. Over the last few weeks I've been really disappointed in our community. People have not sat and listened quietly and done it intelligently. A lot of people are passionate about it, either for it or against it, but that's not a right to be improper and disobedient. Maybe the fact that it does create such turmoil is the reason that it should be changed. We should have a logo that everybody doesn't have to come in here and fight all night for."
The Council: 17 minutes of deliberation
Councilman Paulk wasted no time: "I move that we retire the seal and develop another seal, maybe with the future leaders of the high school – they would come in and create a seal that would be (unintelligible) to represent our community locally."
City Manager Johnson asked for a time frame.
Mayor Witt responded, "It is something that we want to be proud of and do it right. I would ask that we don't change it overnight, but that we do it within a reasonable time."
Councilman Paulk said something that was unintelligible in the audience.
City Manager Johnson said, "It's going to take some time." He suggested three months.
Councilman Paulk said he wanted City Manager Johnson "to get with the students from the High School Government to see if it would be okay with them creatin' a seal that would be a good reflection of our community moving forward."
Finally, City Councilman Ward spoke, "I'm very torn. I've had a lot of calls from my constituents that have said, 'Don't change it.' A lot. I don't know where they're from." Councilman Ward suggested a city-wide logo contest which the Council would judge.
When it came time for Mr. Ward to vote he did not articulate a vote. His silence was considered a yes vote.
The deliberation lasted 17 minutes
The Lake City logo is coming down: 5-0.
* Speakers remarks abridged