Arizona — or at least the southern half — was a Confederate territory before it was a United States territory.

Tensions related to Confederate memorials and other symbols have exploded in the past two years.

The fierce — and, at times, violent — battle over whether U.S. Civil War memorials recognizing Confederate soldiers should remain standing has reached Arizona.

African-American leaders on Monday will call for the swift removal of six Confederate monuments around the state.

“(We will) discuss the meaning of Confederate monuments, how they impact the community and why Gov. (Doug) Ducey should immediately begin the process of removal,” leaders said in a statement announcing the Phoenix news conference, scheduled for 10 a.m.

Representatives from the Maricopa County and East Valley branches of the NAACP, Black Lives Matter-PHX, the Arizona Informant newspaper and various religious organizations form the coalition calling for the change. 

Conflict escalates 

Tensions related to Confederate memorials and other symbols have exploded in the two years since a white supremacist killed nine and injured three black members of a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

In cities from St. Louis to New Orleans to Baltimore, those who believe the monuments glorify slavery and racism have clashed with others who view the memorials as symbols of Southern history and heritage.

Statues have been vandalized, fights have broken out at protests, and contractors charged with removing monuments have covered up identifying information on equipment to protect employees.

Arizona has largely avoided conflicts over Confederate monuments, with one exception: Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, in 2015 unsuccessfully called for renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, which recognizes the lone president of the Confederacy. Others have criticized the memorial to Arizona Confederate troops  at the state Capitol.

Governor’s Office: Not our jurisdiction

Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, said the Governor’s Office started looking into the process for a memorial removal or name change “a week or two ago” as rumblings about a potential call for removal intensified.

He said Monday’s news conference is directed at the wrong official.

“For something like the memorial at the Wesley Bolin plaza, that’s overseen by the Legislative Governmental Mall Commission. And for the (Jefferson Davis) highway, that’s the State Board on Geographic and Historical Names,” Ptak said. “Even though the request is directed at the governor, these issues really fall under the jurisdiction of other entities.”

Curt Tipton, an adjutant with the Arizona division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told The Arizona Republic that taking down Confederate statues “because somebody is offended is ridiculous.”

The national organization specifically honors Confederate soldiers, but opposes removing historical monuments of any kind in Arizona, he said.

Arizona Confederate memorials

The Confederacy claimed the lower half of what is now Arizona before it became a U.S. territory or state. More than 300 Confederate soldiers are buried here, according to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

In addition to the small highway southeast of Apache Junction named after Jefferson Davis, Arizona has six Confederate memorials.

  • Memorial to Arizona Confederate troops, Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix.
  • Arizona Confederate veterans memorial, Greenwood Cemetery, Phoenix.
  • Jefferson Davis Highway, U.S. Highway 60 at Peralta Road, Apache Junction.
  • Arizona Confederate veterans memorial, Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sierra Vista.
  • Battle of Picacho Pass monument, Picacho Peak State Park.
  • Monument at the four graves of the only Confederate soldiers killed in action in Arizona, Dragoon Springs stagecoach station east of Tucson.

Republic reporter Alia Beard Rau contributed to this article.


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