Confederate symbols bring about heated exchange of words at city council meeting
During the public comments portion of the Picayune City Council, Democratic mayoral candidate Laverne Guy questioned the council about the presence of a Confederate marker placed at the Picayune Intermodal Center on Highway 11 in Picayune under Mississippi Code 55-15-81 which deals with the placement and removal of Confederate monuments.
When Mr. Guy began asking who authorized the marker to be placed there, Councilman Wayne Gouguet said he did not. City Manager Jim Luke, the Republican mayoral candidate, did not answer Guy’s question when he was asked. Luke referred the question to city attorney Nathan Farmer.
Guy again asked Luke the question and Luke responded “You are not going to use this as a political forum.” Guy replied this is not a political issue. Luke then told Guy that he (Guy) was not going to handle this, and stated he (Luke) would handle this. Guy told Luke he did not have the authority to handle this.
Guy (pictured) repeated his request to Luke for a yes or no answer, but Luke did not respond accordingly.
City Attorney Farmer said the question should be addressed to Russell Foster. Foster is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization that had the signs created. Guy disagreed, saying this monument is on city property, and the city should answer his question.
Farmer went on to read portions of the statute 55-15-81 aloud in his response to Guy. The entire statue states:
(1) None of the following items, structures or areas may be relocated, removed, disturbed,
altered, renamed or rededicated: Any Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, War in Iraq or Native American War's statues, monuments, memorials or nameplates (plaques), which have been erected on public property of the state or any of its political subdivisions, such as local, municipal or county owned public areas, and any statues, monuments, memorials, nameplates (plaques), schools, streets, bridges, buildings, parks preserves, reserves or other public items, structure or areas of the state or any of its political subdivisions, such as, local, municipal or county owned public areas, which have been dedicated in memory of, or named for, any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization or military unit.
(2) No person may prevent the public body responsible for maintaining any of the items, structures or areas described above from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation, care, repair or restoration of those items, structures or areas. The governing body may move the memorial to a more suitable location if it is determined that the location is more appropriate to displaying the monument.
(3) This section shall not apply to items, structures or areas located on property owned or acquired by the Mississippi Transportation Commission which may interfere with the construction, maintenance or operation of public transportation facilities.
On May 11, 2021, State Representative Stacey Wilkes posted on her face book page that Luke had reached out to her about the legality of removing the signs after that had been taken down. The signs were put back in place according to Wilkes post at the time.
Weeks ago, Mayor Ed Pinero stated that he had not found data in the council minutes that the sign at the Intermodal Center was approved to be installed, and that was why it was taken down.
Guy stated that the monument was never properly approved by the council. He added that the presence of the monument and the emblem of the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization being displayed on the civic club signs at two locations in the city of Picayune are sending the wrong message about Picayune during these changing times.
After first arguing with Guy about bringing this issue up, Councilman Larry Breland later agreed with Guy that the city attorney (Farmer) should look into the matter.
The council agreed not to meet again in June and will not be back together until July which is after the mayoral race and one city council seat election will be decided.