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'Take Back Cheapside' Keeps Pressure On City Leaders

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Robin Kunkel Code
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Take Back Cheapside protests Confederate statues in downtown Lexington.

Confederate statues in downtown Lexington continue to court controversy, despite a February decision by the mayor to add more context to the displays.

Parting company with an art review board, Mayor Jim Gray opted to keep the statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge in place – with the stipulation that the area near the former Fayette County Courthouse and Cheapside Park be updated to better reflect the city’s diverse history.

But a group calling itself Take Back Cheapside wants more action, including another look at relocating the statues depicting the Confederate general and the former U.S. vice president, representative, and senator ejected from the Senate after taking a brigadier general post with the Confederate Army.

"I think there's a historical perspective that those statues can bring, but I think without any context, and especially with what that space stood for and kind of still stands for, that's just not the place for them," says movement spokesperson Russell Allen.

By staging ongoing protests downtown, the group also aims to raise awareness about Cheapside’s dark past as a major slave-trading market. A plaque detailing that history was vandalized in 2015. The markers at the site have since been removed while the old courthouse undergoes a lengthy $30 million building-wide renovation.

"One of the things that I've learned from just being down there is people don't know exactly what's happening or they have a sort of very basic understanding of what happened there," Allen adds.

City spokesperson Susan Straub says reinstallation of the markers will happen after construction has been substantially completed in the spring of 2018.

"Discussions for a new site design for the courthouse grounds will begin at that time," she told WUKY in an email.

Straub had no comment on the demonstrations over the statues.   

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, WUKY’s DeBraun Thomas is a founding member of the Take Back Cheapside movement.

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