In its first position statement directed specifically to the Confederate monument in Cleveland, the United Daughters of the Confederacy-Jefferson Davis Chapter 900 has refused to support any relocation of the statue.
The official response was submitted to the Cleveland Daily Banner on Monday as an answer to those who are petitioning, and protesting, for the statue's removal to a more historic setting such as the Confederate section of Fort Hill Cemetery.
Linda Ballew, president of the UDOC, said an "overwhelming majority of Cleveland residents are rallying around our beloved Cleveland monument," adding the organization will "never compromise."
Monday's statement came following an earlier inquiry from the Cleveland Daily Banner requesting a response to a petition that was posted online earlier this month. The petition requested that the monument be relocated to a site where its historical and educational significance could be studied more in context. The petition has garnered thousands of signatures, as have petitions opposing the statue's relocation.
UDOC's latest statement follows one published Sunday in the Banner, one from the organization's national office dating from 2018, that offered a more general response that didn't specifically address the Cleveland monument.
Those opposed to the statue claim its present location glorifies the Confederacy and slavery, while its supporters claim it represents heritage. It has been the scene of almost nightly protests since the petition was published online on June 8.
In response, several pro-statue petitions were also posted online, also attracting thousands of signatures from those who oppose its removal.
The statue is located at the intersection of Ocoee, Broad and Eighth streets. It was constructed by the UDOC in 1910, and dedicated during a ceremony attended by Confederate and Union veterans in 1911.
Ballew said the organization is preparing for possible litigation and promised it would not compromise.
Ballew referenced the recent release of the minutes from a 1911 city of Cleveland aldermen's meeting, which conveyed the property where the Confederate monument stands to the UDOC. The document was revealed by Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks after an extensive search by city staff. A photo of the minutes was published in Sunday's edition of the Banner.
"The United Daughters of the Confederacy have been waiting patiently for the facts to present themselves," Ballew said in Monday's position statement. "It seems at this time that the records indicate that the UDOC owns the monument and the property it sits on."
She said the UDOC will remain steadfast in ensuring the monument is never relocated.
"Members of the UDOC have unanimously expressed this view, and will never waiver," Ballew said. "Be assured Cleveland residents: the UDOC believes that the monument stands for all the fathers, husbands, sons and brothers that never returned home from the war."
Ballew noted that many families never saw their loved ones again after they marched off to war.
"No one knew where their remains were," she said. "Can you imagine what sorrow the families must have felt? We believe it stands as a memorial for our ancestors."
As for charges the organization is racist, Ballew strongly disagreed.
"The UDOC has never been and never will be a racist organization," she said. "The war was fought over 150 years ago. Debating the war could go on forever. We choose to honor all veterans as Americans, as it should be. Wecannot be held responsible for what others did."
She said the statue standing atop the monument could be any soldier serving during the Civil War.
"The soldier that stands atop the monument could be blue as well as gray," she said. "The monument has stood peacefully for 109 years until, for a few minutes of fame, an outsider is willing to destroy something that is so dear to us."
She said UDOC members have ancestors who also fought for the Union.
"Our members have family members that served on the Union side, as well as the Confederacy," she said. "Most of our ancestors were poor farmers just trying to make a living for their families."
Ballew cautioned that UDOC is prepared for litigation.
"The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act was enacted in 2013, and amended in 2016, and 2018," she said. "It prohibits the removal, relocation or renaming of a memorial. Just recently, the president signed an Executive Order on protecting American monuments, memorials and statues, and combating recent criminal violence."
She said the UDOC would like to thank everyone for their support in leaving the monument where it is.
"Also, thank you to the Sons of Confederate Veterans that stand with us and feel as strongly as we do," Ballew said. "To the Jefferson Davis Ladies that put so much time and effort into erecting the monument, we as members of the Chapter make you a solemn promise. We will continue to stand tall and strong just as you did during the war. We will never compromise, and we will never let you down!"