MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Mayor A C Wharton announced a proposal to remove a controversial monument from a Memphis park.
"These relics, these messages of this despicable period of this great nation, it's time for those to be moved," said Wharton in a news conference Thursday.
Wharton called for the statue and grave sites of noted KKK leader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife to be removed.
"I despise whatever the Confederacy stood for," Wharton added. "This is not just an ordinary monument. This is a monument to a man who was the avowed founder of the organization that has as its purpose the intimidation, the oppression of black folks."
Wharton said he is asking for the change following the mass murder of nine Bible study attendees in Charleston at the hands of an alleged white supremacist sporting the Confederate flag.
"Thanks to the kind of social media we have now, it's clear by his own words that what happened in Charleston is related to the presence of the flag," Wharton said.
Many City Council members agree with Wharton's proposal.
Councilman Harold Collins pointed out that the Parks Committee discussed the same idea three years ago when city leaders changed the names of several parks.
Both Collins and Councilman Jim Strickland are running for Memphis Mayor against Wharton, but support the latest effort in a debate that has spanned the years.
Councilman Myron Lowery said he is already in discussion with Council Attorney Allan Wade to draw up an ordinance to move the proposal along.
However, Wharton's statement was met with some opposition. The Sons of Confederate Veterans said the flag and the monument to Forrest have no connection to the shooting. They added that the monument should stay where it is.
"General Forrest was a revered member of society in Memphis," Sons of Confederate Veterans representative Lee Millar explained. "Very well respected, and a military leader who is still studied worldwide in military academies today."
Millar added that Forrest was not the leader of the KKK, or even a member of the group, but many critics said that is not true.
He said racists, like the alleged AME Church shooter, are misusing the flag, as well as the name of General Forrest.
"He was just a nut case basically and a white supremacist," said Millar of the alleged church shooter. "That certainly is not what the Sons of Confederate Veterans is about."