Ocala, Florida, Proclaims April 26 As Confederate Memorial Day

A Confederate monument featuring a statue of a Confederate soldier is seen at the Ocala Veterans Park in the midst of a national controversy over whether Confederate symbols should be removed from public display on August 19, 2017 in Ocala, Florida. The issue is at the heart of a debate about race in America and a recent protest in Charlottesville, VA turned deadly as white-supremacists clashed with counter-demonstrators over a confederate statue.
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On Tuesday, April 2, the mayor of Ocala, Florida, Kent Guinn, announced that the city would officially recognize April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day. A proclamation was accepted at a city council meeting by two Ocala residents, Nancy Bowden and Judy Delk, which Mayor Guinn had approved.

The proclamation, which has been archived on the city’s official website, states that the state of Florida provided more “soldiers, sailors, and livestock” (per capita) to support the Confederate army than any other state. It also mentions that the idea behind the proposed holiday is to remember the four-year-long American Civil War — which lasted from April 12, 1861, to Apr 9, 1865 — in an effort to better understand the ideas and ideals that pitted the United States against the Confederate States.

“Whereas April 26 has been designated by the laws of Florida as a legal holiday, Confederate Memorial Day, a time which to honor the memories of those who sacrificed their lives in the war between the states,” the proclamation reads, in part.

While Confederate Memorial Day might not be familiar to most, the holiday has been celebrated for over 150 years, starting on April 26, 1866. While it is not recognized as an official holiday throughout the United States, a handful of southern states do observe this somewhat controversial day of remembrance. As CNN notes, last year, state government offices in Alabama were closed on April 23, while Mississippi observed the holiday one week later on April 30. While both Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday were removed from Georgia’s state calendar years ago, Confederate Memorial Day has been referred to as “State Holiday” since 2015. Last year, it was observed on April 23, even though its officially recognized on April 26.

Needless to say, some members of Ocala’s city council were less than thrilled about Mayor Guinn’s decision to officially recognize Confederate Memorial Day. Council President Mary Sue Rich, who has represented the city’s second district on the city council since November of 1995, didn’t hold back her opposition.

“It upsets my stomach that we had a Confederacy ordinance, Mr. Mayor,” Rich said. “You wouldn’t allow people to do an ordinance of peace, and whether you like it or not, Ocala is considered an international city of peace.”

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It seems Mary Sue Rich was referencing a proclamation of peace that was spearheaded by another Ocala resident, Manal Fakhoury, per the Daily Commercial. Rich also criticized Mayor Guinn for not doing a background check on both Bowden and Delk, despite the fact that he dug into Fakhoury’s background and religious ideologies, and subsequently denied Fakhoury’s proposed proclamation.

Rich ended her speech by bringing up past allegations that Mayor Guinn was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, in 2015, Guinn showed up on a list of KKK members released by the hacker group Anonymous.