Thursday night, the Madison City Council Equal Opportunities Commission met to discuss and establish a plan for the confederate monuments in the Forest Hill Cemetery.
The commission began their discussion with a recap of last week’s public forum, in which community members addressed the Board of Park Commissioners, the Landmarks Commission and the EOC with their concerns.
EOC citizen member Richelle Andrae said historical perspectives on the topic are “valuable” in how the government addresses Confederate monuments.
“I did find the historical perspectives very valuable and the idea that the past is what happens and history is our version of the past,” Andrae said. “Anything that we talk about related to the past is always someone’s story of what happened.”
But, EOC president Corinda Rainey-Moore said history, to her, is something proven — not just someone’s version of past events. She believes this should be applied to the monuments to make them depict true history.
Zach Madden, EOC secretary, said he entered the EOC meeting last week believing both monuments should be taken out of the cemetery. But, he emerged from that meeting with mixed feelings.
“Going in, I had no real protest of the removal of the exterior plaque, and I thought the monument in the middle should be taken out,” Madden said. “I came out of the meeting having mixed feelings about that.”
Madden credited his confusion to the fact that the names on some of the headstones are not legible, and the monument makes up for this with the soldiers names on it. Nonetheless, he believes the second monument should be taken out of the cemetery.
Charles McDowell, EOC vice president, said he enjoyed hearing the history behind the prisoners in Camp Randall last week, but noticed racial disparities in the people who spoke.
“Knowing some of the people who spoke, I realized it’s some of the same negative bigotry that exists today,” McDowell said. “This is just another tool to keep feeding that, and I think we need to stand up to it.”
Madden suggested a new historical marker be erected in the cemetery by the Landmarks Commission with the consultation of the WHS. This motion failed by a 3-5 vote.
After nearly 30 minutes of discussion, Madden proposed that the commission affirm the removal of the 1981 monument and the 1906 monument, and offer both to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The commission agreed to talk about and make a decision on the monuments at a later date.