Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Flags cut down at Jefferson Davis Park

It’s third time since August the Confederate site has been vandalized

By , Columbian Staff Writer
Published:
4 Photos
Jefferson Davis Park is pictured outside Ridgefield on private property. Earlier this year, the site had three flags stolen, the third time the site has been attacked since August.
Jefferson Davis Park is pictured outside Ridgefield on private property. Earlier this year, the site had three flags stolen, the third time the site has been attacked since August. Photo Gallery

For the third time since August, vandals have struck Jefferson Davis Park, which sits on private property outside of Ridgefield.

This most recent defacing of the monument to the Confederacy took place in mid-January, when someone broke open security locks on flagpoles at the site and then cut down the flags, according to Garth McKinney, first lieutenant commander of the Pacific Northwest Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which maintains the site. The site was flying at least three Confederate flags, McKinney said: the First National Flag of the Confederacy, the Third National Flag of the Confederacy and the “Bonnie Blue” Confederate flag. McKinney’s organization hasn’t replaced the flags yet.

In August, Portland anti-fascist activists claimed responsibility for covering two monuments at the site in tar and paint. A few months ago, a group painted over the plaque dedicating the site in honor of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America. The group also left “a note that had a threat attached,” McKinney wrote in an email. McKinney thinks that it has been the same group defacing the park each time.

Confederate monuments and statues have drawn ire around in the country in recent months from opponents who say they are improperly honoring controversial historical figures and promoting American racism. The movement to take down the monuments, or deface them, picked up in August after the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a motorist drove a car into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Unlike the August incident at Jefferson Davis Park, a Portland anti-fascist organization didn’t take credit for the most recent vandalism.

“While we would never talk about the operations of our group or any other group in relations to actions that might have been taken, the attack of these symbols could have been undertaken by any citizen,” an email from the group stated.

McKinney said the site is currently undergoing repairs and the Sons of Confederate Veterans are looking into options for additional security and possible expansions. McKinney said they don’t plan to move the site from the private property outside Ridgefield, but are looking around the state for more sites where they can put up more flagpoles.

“These instances of vandalism have inspired us to seek locations for additional poles and flags to bring awareness to our country’s history for future generations to understand and educate themselves about,” he said.

McKinney said the group is looking into security cameras and the potential for fencing.

History of the site

The quarter-acre site is clearly visible from Interstate 5. Dedicated in 2007, it contains two stone markers for “Jefferson Davis Highway 99,” one from Vancouver and one from Blaine. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy launched an effort to designate a route across the south as “The Jefferson Davis Highway,” and later wanted to extend the designation up the West Coast to Canada with markers at both ends of Washington state.

The Vancouver marker was placed along Main Street near Covington House in 1939 and remained there until former City Manager Vernon Stoner, at the urging of then-Councilman Jim Moeller, had it removed and placed in storage in May 1998.

In 2002, state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, unaware the Vancouver marker had been removed, wanted both the markers removed. After much discussion, the city council voted to place it at the Clark County Historical Museum. Ownership of the monument reverted to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The marker was moved from the museum in 2006 due to a construction project, and the Daughters were asked to find a new home for it. It was moved to the private property in 2007, and a nonprofit, the Jefferson Davis Park, was formed to maintain the site.

After the vandalism in August, discussion in the county around the monuments started back up. A crowd packed the Clark County Historical Preservation Commission meeting on Sept. 5, where the commission discussed removing the marker from the Clark County Heritage Register. It was placed on the county’s list of historical sites in 2002. At the commission’s Oct. 3 meeting, the six-person commission voted unanimously to remove it from the county’s historical registry.

Jacqui Kamp, a Clark County planner who serves as staff for the commission, said she’s not aware of any action to get the marker back on the historical registry.

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