Group says Confederate memorial ‘not symbol of racism’

Ridgefield, Washington is about 20 miles north of Portland

The City of Ridgefield refuses to take down the Confederate Memorial, Aug. 15, 2017. (KOIN)

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. (KOIN) — Jefferson Davis Park may be the only Confederate memorial in the Portland area, and the group that manages the park said the memorial isn’t going anywhere despite the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

John Sigmon is with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is the group that owns the land where the Jefferson Davis Park Memorial lies. Within the memorial is a confederate flag, flying high.

John Sigmon is with the group Sons of Confederate Veterans, who own the land where the Jefferson Davis Park lies, Aug. 15, 2017. (KOIN)

“It’s not a symbol of racism,” Sigmon said. “It’s a symbol of the South and its way of life and its determination to solve its problems in its own way and its own time.”

On Monday, a Confederate statue was toppled in Durham, North Carolina during a protest.

Stemming from the violent Charlottesville rally, there are plans to remove Confederate memorials across the country including ones in Maryland, Florida and Kentucky.

Despite these growing tensions, Sigmon said the Sons of Confederate Veterans aren’t like some of the other groups around the nation fighting to keep Confederate memorials.

“We’re apolitical,” Sigmon said. “Our constitution, our bylaws does not allow us to affiliate with any political part. We do not pass political opinions on anything, we make no contributions to any political candidate.”

When asked if the flag’s perceived connection to slavery is at all a deterrent for those who want to preserve Confederate history, Sigmon said his group believes that’s not what it’s about.

The Jefferson Davis Park is about 20 miles north of Portland in Ridgefield, Washington, Aug. 15, 2017. (KOIN)

“Our flag has nothing to do with perpetuation of slavery — it has to do with the defense of the South and the way of life of Southerners,” Sigmon said.

According to Sigmon, their group has been threatened more in recent months, but he said he welcomes dialogue with those who disagree — to a certain point.

“Death threats. Physical threats. Threats to show up at job sites that’s reprehensible,” Sigmon said. “We’re Americans, we settle things in a peaceable manner, but I would also add that we are prepared to exercise our right to defend ourselves.”