Debate over confederate symbols spreads into Northeast Ohio

Posted at 9:36 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-18 06:37:31-04

A debate over symbols of the Confederacy has now spread north, with questions over what to do with at least five confederate monuments across Ohio and whether one high school should ditch its confederate-themed mascot.

On a quiet night after the storm, lifelong Clevelander Steve Petrus took a moment to admire Public Square’s Soldiers and Sailors monument. The bronze and black depictions of war honor the 9,000 union troops from Cuyahoga County, including both white and emancipated black soldiers who fought side by side and defeated confederate troops.

“This monument is great!” Petrus said. "I love it.”

But if you think that means Petrus supports the removal of confederate monuments elsewhere, think again.

“Don’t get rid of them. Teach people why they were horrible people!” Petrus said. "Hitler, Stalin took down many monuments because of that. Would we get rid of the Pharaohs, the Pyramids, the Incas? Just because of that?”

Down south, racist rallies last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia prompted a number of other cities to take steps to take down their memorials to confederate generals. That momentum even stretched north to Willoughby, where school officials will now ditch one high school’s confederate Rebel mascot.

“I think that’s great. I think the Cleveland Indians should probably pay attention to that,” Kathleen Alto said.

Alto said imagines of Nazis and white supremacists marching in the street, in defense of old, long-debated confederate war symbols was a major American wake up call.

“Sometimes you need literal Nazis to help explain that something is racist,” Alto said. "If that doesn’t tell you that something is racist, I don’t know what is, but it’s not the Nazis that made it racist.”