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Anticipation, Caution Surround Thursday Statue Vote

Josh James
Movement is underway to move this statue of Confederate General John Breckinridge, along with a separate memorial to John Hunt Morgan. Thursday, the Urban County Council is expected to take a final vote on the issue. Photo taken August 14, 2017.

Lexington’s Urban County Council is poised for a final vote tonight on a resolution backing the relocation of a pair of Confederate statues.

With the momentum solidly behind decision tonight to remove the memorials to Confederate leaders John Hunt Morgan and John C.Breckinridge, the keyword for police and groups involved in the campaign is “vigilance.”  

"We haven't heard of anything yet, but we're just staying vigilant," says Russell Allen with the grassroots  group Take Back Cheapside, referring to reports that white nationalists plan to rally in opposition.

Take Back Cheapside held a press conference Wednesday night reminding supporters that Tuesday’s unanimous vote in favor of removal was only preliminary, and the movement still faces several potential stumbling blocks. In addition to more votes, both by the council and the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission, the moves have also attracted the attention of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party. No dates have emerged, but group chairman Matthew Heimbach indicated they expect to rally "sooner rather than later."

Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard says the department has received no indication of a protest or demonstration in Lexington "today, this weekend, or the near future," but is planning ahead, and will meet any Charlottesville-style event with an "overwhelming" force.

"I've spoken to Charlottesville. I've spoken to the incident commander. We wanted to make sure what happened, what they saw, anything that we need to prepare for if it comes to Lexington. We've had those conversations. We're speaking with our federal partners along with our state partners," he told reporters Tuesday.

Barnard says police have issued no permits for a demonstration, though Lexington does not require them if organizers do not plan to shut down streets.

Take Back Cheapside activists are encouraging supporters not to engage with any white nationalist activists, but rather to pass along any information, including photos, to the police.

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