The city of Helena began removing a controversial Confederate memorial Friday.
The City Commission said they wanted the granite fountain gone after calls for its removal increased due to last weekend’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Chris Powers of East Helena says he’s sad to see it go.
"Although it does wipe away a little bit of the memory of the Confederacy, it also wipes away the memories of hundreds of people in this town who have enjoyed it and it destroys the opportunity for others to come and enjoy this beautiful fountain.”
Powers was one of a handful of people I saw Thursday walking up to the fountain and taking pictures of it. There was a state employee, An older man on a motorcycle, and then a guy with a cowboy hat and braces, chewing on a toothpick.
He said his name was Thad, but he wouldn’t give me his last name.
“A lot of my friends are offended and feel like it should be removed. And I just came to check it out and see if it has anything to do with the things I’ve been reading about.”
Thad said he was born and raised in Helena, and had no idea the fountain was actually a confederate memorial. And, from far away, it doesn’t look like one - there aren’t any soldiers or generals riding horses.
But then you get closer and you see the inscription on the fountain’s head. It says, “by the daughters of the confederacy in Montana, A.D. 1916.”
“I mean, I don’t know what they’re all about," Thad says. "Daughters of the Confederacy; it’s like, everyone in the South, right?”
Nate Hegyi: Uh, right, I mean, technically yes but they were a group that was connected with the KKK …
“Yeah, I had read that they did that, and I’m not a fan of that,” he says.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the United Daughters of the Confederacy as part of the neo-confederate movement, and, as late as the 1930s they supported the KKK. They were also responsible for putting up most of the confederate memorials in the United States.
City Parks and Recreation Director Amy Teegarden says the fountain will initially be stored in a city warehouse.
A handful of people opposed to the removal stood guard through last night and one woman was arrested this morning after refusing an officer's order to move away from the fountain.