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Public Push Grows To Take Down Two Statues Of Andrew Jackson In Kansas City, Missouri, And Independence

The statue of Andrew Jackson in front of the Jackson County Courthouse was vandalized Thursday night. By Friday morning it was covered with a tarp.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3
The statue of Andrew Jackson in front of the Jackson County Courthouse was vandalized Thursday night. By Friday morning it was covered with a tarp.

After vandals defaced the statue downtown, Jackson County Executive Frank White said it is time to remove it and the one in Independence

It didn't take long after vandals defaced the statue of Andrew Jackson in front of the Jackson Coutny courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, for County Executive Frank White to call for its removal.

“Countless men, women and children come through the doors of our courthouses every day. And every day, racism and discrimination are staring them in the face," White said in a lengthy statement Thursday night.

The presence of the Jackson statues — both downtown, and another in front of the courthouse in Independence — makes some people feel unwelcome, White said.

"They are greeted by a man who owned hundreds of slaves, opposed the abolitionist movement and caused thousands of Native Americans to die when he forced them out of their homeland for white settlement," he said in his statement.

Two white men, both 25 years old, were arrested and detained, according to Kansas City Police, for defacing the statue.

What to do about the Jackson statues has been an issue for a long time that has come under renewed scrutiny amid the recent protest movement in Kansas City and around the nation.

In December, the county Legislature passed a resolution to create a plaque to put Jackson in historical context. The proposed language acknowledged Jackson as a slave owner and his role in the death of "an estimated one-quarter of the Cherokee Nation."

But it also said Jackson was a hero of the War of 1812, and the county was named by an act of the Missouri Legislature.

County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker helped drive the plaque idea.

"We believed last year that it was past time to acknowledge the racist history of Andrew Jackson. That’s why we pushed for placing a plaque on the statue," she said in a statement to KCUR.

Baker now says she also believes it is time for the statues to come down.

“The time has come to take it down because it’s a symbol of a past we must raze to build anew," she said in a statement to KCUR.

While it appears that a committee will be formed to hear public input, one county legislator is ready to take the Jackson statues down right now.

"I think there's an appetite for removing the Jackson statutes from downtown and from Independence," County Legislator Chrystal Williams said. "Jackson is not someone to emulate, and I don't think he's someone to hold up as an example."

Williams said they should even consider the idea of renaming the county itself.

"I believe that kind of conversation needs to happen when we're not in the middle of a pandemic," Williams told KCUR. "I think that that needs to be a measured and relatively long conversation."

Whatever happens next, it could be a clearer when the County Legislature meets Monday morning.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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