Lawmaker: Take down Ariz. Jefferson Davis memorial

Madeleine Winer, The Republic | azcentral.com

A Democratic state lawmaker and some activists called Wednesday for the removal of a memorial along a stretch of rural Arizona highway bearing the name of the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, called for the removal of the memorial to Jefferson Davis on U.S. 60 southeast of Apache Junction as states across the South have debated removing the Confederate flag from state capitols in response to the June 17 massacre at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C., which appeared to be racially motivated.

"In light of everything that has happened ... we can't go through our daily lives honoring symbols of hate, symbols of separation and symbols of segregation right now," said Bolding, who was joined by a half-dozen activists outside the state Capitol.

Bolding said he will seek the support of the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names.

Charles Fanniel, president of Arizona's NAACP, said the shooting at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Church by a White gunman who killed nine African-American worshipers has brought attention to racism still existing in the country.

"It's up to us to address the issue of systematic racism across the country," he said in an interview after the news conference. "We've made progress, but there's more progress that needs to be made. Racism exists in every part of the country. ... It's the opportune time to address anything divisive or racist among citizens of the United States."

Roy Tatem, president of the Delta Tau Lambda Phoenix chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, a national African-American fraternity, said it's time that the country pays attention to the meaning of the Confederate flag.

"People just needed to be aware, and I don't think they were aware," he said after the news conference. "We've (the African-American community) always raised the question. We've always been concerned. We've always expressed our disdain for the Confederate flag. Why now is the national media and American paying attention to it?"

During the Civil War, Confederate troops flew their flag over Tucson as they attempted to extend the Confederacy to the West Coast. In 1862, Confederate and Union soldiers clashed at Picacho Peak, north of Tucson.

The first chapter in Arizona of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was chartered in Tempe in 1917. It disbanded in 1949 but reactivated in 2008. Today, Arizona also has chapters in Phoenix and Prescott, according to the group's website.

Originally Posted on azcentral.com on June 25, 2015.