Mayor Brian Hatch hopes a vote to remove a controversial veterans memorial from a Knoxville city park has ended a debate embroiling his town.
Not likely, say memorial supporters, who want the wooden silhouette to stay right where it is.
The city council voted 3-2 Monday night to approve a plan to move the memorial — which features a soldier kneeling before a cross — onto private property and place a new bronze memorial where it stood in Young’s Park.
The move comes after the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sent a letter in August asking the city to remove the silhouette from public property because of the religious symbol.
“I hope it brings some closure to it,” Hatch said Tuesday. “I hope we can kind of achieve the best of both worlds. We avoid a costly lawsuit and at the same time we still have the silhouette memorial up honoring the veterans, right across the road hopefully, on private property.”
Still, the move on the eve of the city’s local election prompted calls from supporters of the silhouette to oust two incumbents who voted to move the memorial, Carolyn Formanek and April Verwers.
A Facebook page called Stop the Insanity created to support the memorial urged its 2,769 followers to vote for the two council members’ opponents, with one post reading “If they don’t support our community, why support them?”
Similar calls have divided the central Iowa community of 7,313 since the Americans United letter arrived in August, bringing with it the possibility the city could end up as a defendant in a First Amendment lawsuit if it refused to remove the silhouette. Residents during a two-hour meeting in September sometimes shouted at city council members who voiced support for some sort of compromise to avoid litigation.
Doug Goff, a Knoxville resident who organized a well-attended rally to support the memorial, said Tuesday he hopes the fight to keep the silhouette in Young’s Park will stay alive. On the Stop the Insanity Facebook page, Goff supported calls for his name to be written in as an alternative to Hatch, who is running for re-election unopposed.