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Murray Residents Calling For Confederate Monument Removal Donate Books To Library

Credit Liam Niemeyer / WKMS

Murray residents calling for removal of a local Confederate monument donated books to their county library and other “little free” libraries throughout the city on Saturday in an effort to engage and give back to their community. The donations followed a “week of action” organized by these residents centered around the past Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Rikki Neal and her two toddlers brought dozens of books into Calloway County Public Library, most of them children’s books featuring multicultural stories and history, including the book, “I Promise” by basketball star LeBron James. Neal said her husband, Sherman, helped fundraise about $1,500 in the community to buy more than 100 books in total. Advocates hope the books help community members gain perspective and awareness on diverse experiences.

“He and I both kind of agree books leave a long-lasting impression. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, it kind of sticks with you, the literature does,” Neal said. “I like that he’s trying to instill, not stirring the pot, but helping that conversation start at the dinner table at home and helping people realize what they do or do not believe in and what they can do to contribute to the community.” 

Library Director Mignon Reed said the donation was a “wonderful” collection on diversity, and plans to sell the books in a future sale to benefit library programming. Reed said she personally hopes the books will share unique and diverse experiences with children, along with engaging the parents who read the books to their kids. 

“With the diversity that we have in our community, the awareness that they are bringing up with some people who don’t know or may not have access to that type of information, to just be aware and educated. So I think this is something that’s really great,” Reed said.

Credit Liam Niemeyer / WKMS
Library Director Mignon Reed holding up one of the donated books.

Friends of the Calloway County Public Library President Georgena Taylor also said the books enhance the community’s understanding of one another during a time when listening and understanding is very important. 

For Confederate monument removal advocate Shelly Baskin, the book donations stemmed from conversations he and other advocates have had with one another and community members who want the monument to remain in downtown Murray. Baskin said some people may not have access to the diverse experiences and knowledge that inform advocates’ and others’ opinion on the monument.

“We think that if we give it enough time, enough opportunity to kind of read these books and share these experiences with people they wouldn’t have known otherwise, eventually we’re going to get to a spot where we can come together on this,” Baskin said. “And not just the monument, but other things. There’s a lot of racial reconciliation that needs to happen in our country and in our community.”

Protest At Monument

Following the donations Saturday morning, about 25 people consisting of removal advocates and those who want the monument to remain in downtown Murray gathered next to the monument to protest, waving signs at cars passing by. Several of the protesters were Murray State University students, some associated with the Murray State College Democrats. 

Russell Sledd, holding a “Leave the Statue” sign, was among those at the monument. 

“They want to keep going on [the monument] every weekend even though it’s been voted on and says it’s gonna stay,” Sledd said, referring to the Calloway Fiscal Court passing a resolution last summer allowing the monument to remain. “I know [the removal advocates] have a different philosophy than I do. But you can learn from it. They can learn from it and move on.”

Credit Liam Niemeyer / WKMS
Protesters at the monument on Saturday.

The protest remained peaceful throughout Saturday morning, but tensions rose when a man in a black car passing by the monument allegedly flashed a firearm as one protester yelled at the car, before driving away. Sledd said he didn’t see the firearm being flashed, but at least two other protesters told WKMS News they did see a firearm. 

A spokesperson for the Murray Police Department did not immediately respond to a question of whether the department was conducting an investigation into the allegations. MPD Officer Chris Garland called a WKMS News reporter for information about the protester who was yelling at the car, but Garland declined to comment on whether or not an investigation is being conducted. 

Standing by the monument, Murray State College Democrats Vice President Megan Reynolds said despite the county fiscal court’s resolution more than six months ago, she and other advocates plan to continue protesting and calling for the monument’s removal. Sledd said he plans to be at the monument as long as future protests continue.

“They’ve given us an answer, but we don’t agree with it. And I don’t think we’re obligated to agree with that if it’s a wrong answer,” Reynolds said. “This has been here for so long, and it’s representative of everything Murray shouldn’t stand for.”

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"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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