Council Member Mark Miller did not ask the Cookeville City Council to add a resolution concerning the Cookeville City Cemetery to the Thursday night agenda.
Miller said Wednesday he would ask the council to address the agreement violation that Miller said exists with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans memorial. Miller said the monument should be removed because no one is interred there as required by the city agreement.
Council members vote on whether to accept the agenda or suggest an addition or deletion in the early stages of the meeting. Miller did not ask the council to amend the agenda. Miller did not ask the council to consider a discussion of removing the memorial before the meeting.
After 39 local residents voiced their concerns Thursday night, Miller said the city needs to understand the impact of confederate symbols.
“That monument to some people might be the monument to their ancestors that fought in the war,” Miller said. “But also that monument is the monument of the military that fought to keep them enslaved. That confederate flag is also to some of our residents, not that many but about four to five percent of our residents, the flag that was flown around their ancestors while they were being lynched.”
“It is something that we really need to take a look at if we want to be the most inclusive, diverse city in the United States to make sure that those symbols of hate are never, ever again allowed in our city.”
After the meeting adjourned, Miller left the council chambers and spoke to about 25 supporters outside City Hall. He said he would not call the cemetery structure a monument.
“I want to call it a symbol of hate,” Miller said. “It is not a monument to anything. It is a monument to oppressed people all over the United States.”
When a resident asked Miller to update the council’s next steps concerning the Cookeville City Cemetery, Miller said the council would place signs that said Cookeville does not own the monuments.
“That monument over there is oppressive,” Miller said. “That is a symbol of hate. I don’t want to call that a monument.”
Miller said the city also planned to update its personnel handbook. The city’s HR department will clarify what could be placed on city property, such as lockers or vehicles.
“We’re going to make sure there’s no symbols of hate ever on any city property ever again,” Miller said.
Miller did not specify when such symbols had previously been seen on city property. City Manager James Mills said Monday night that he had discussed the issue of confederate symbols with city department heads. Mills said Monday he nor the department heads could find any evidence of any confederate flags or other inappropriate symbols on city property.
As he thanked supporters, Miller said he wanted ideas on how to proceed with “this moment” from everyone in the community.
“I want you to come to me anytime there is anything that is oppressive to you,” Miller said.