Civil-rights leaders on Tuesday gathered at the Arizona Capitol to decry Gov. Doug Ducey’s refusal to back removal of the state’s six Confederate memorials.

Ducey said Monday it was “not (his) desire or mission to tear down any monument or memorial” in Arizona, moments after denouncing the white-supremacist groups who rallied to protect a Confederate monument in Virginia last weekend.

“Governor Ducey, you cannot have it both ways,” pastor and activist Reginald Walton said, with the Confederate memorial at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza behind him. “These monuments of hatred must come down.”

East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem likened Ducey’s stance to President Donald Trump’s “halfway” condemnations of white supremacy following the Charlottesville violence. In a news conference Tuesday, Trump said left-wing groups were just as violent as white supremacists and there were “bad people” on both sides.

“We know what’s going on in our communities. We’ve seen the vitriol. We’ve heard the hate. A number of us have received death threats in regards to our position,” Tatem said. “This isn’t the time to play those kinds of politics.”

‘That has no place in this country’

The Charlottesville rally, which left one counterprotester dead and 19 injured, was the latest in a series of clashes between those who believe Confederate monuments glorify slavery and racism and others who view them as symbols of Southern history and heritage.

Tensions related to Confederate memorials and flags have exploded in the two years since a white supremacist killed nine and injured three black members of a Charleston, S.C., church.

Though Arizona has avoided the vandalism and violent protests seen in other states so far, fierce opposition to removing the monuments exists. The Arizona division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization that pays tribute to Confederate soldiers, has promised to fight any removal efforts.

Walton described such Confederate heritage groups as “misinformed” in June, when representatives of Black Lives Matter-PHX, local NAACP chapters, the Arizona Informant newspaper and religious organizations first called on Ducey to take the lead in removing the memorials.

“If we honor (Confederate soldiers), we are honoring and saying that we are, in essence, supportive of slavery,” Walton said Tuesday. “That has no place in this country, that has no place in this world, and it should not be allowed on the grounds of the state of Arizona.”

Tatem similarly said he does not “recognize the soldiers of the Confederacy as a part of a country I want to be a part of.”

“They wanted my forefathers enslaved in chains, and they lost,” he said. “Therefore, I respectfully say (Confederate memorabilia) should be in a museum.”

Ducey: ‘We have a public process for this’

In his remarks Monday, Ducey indicated the power to remove or rename memorials did not fall to him. 

“We have a public process for this,” he said, pointing to entities such as the Legislative Governmental Mall Commission and the State Board on Geographic and Historical Names.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, who began calling for removal of Arizona’s Confederate memorials in 2015, criticized the governor’s inaction. He said Ducey might not have the final say in questions of removal or renaming, but he has the ability to set the process in motion.

Bolding told The Arizona Republic he had independently met with Kevin DeMenna, the Legislative Governmental Mall Commission chairman, to request a public discussion about the Confederate memorial at the Capitol in lieu of Ducey doing so. 

“My understanding was that that meeting was supposed to happen in July. That didn’t take place,” Bolding said. “I’m not sure whether it’s because of the sentiment around this issue, or if it’s simply that the Mall Commission needs more time.”

Neither the Governor’s Office nor DeMenna responded to requests for comment.

Discouraged, but not surrendering

Frustration about the lack of progress with Arizona removal efforts has increased in the wake of the bloodshed in Charlottesville, with residents calling for Ducey to “show leadership” on social media.

Tatem said some community members have threatened to topple the monuments themselves, but he has “advised against that” and in favor of “non-violent civil disobedience.”

“We will continue to present this to our elected officials, to the next candidate for governor, to the next candidate for secretary of state, to our senators, to our representatives, to our congresspeople,” Tatem said.

“We will present this argument to them until Arizona acts in the best interest of all Arizonans.”

Confederate memorials in Arizona

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

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, Pinal County.
  • 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.??????

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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