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Marion County NAACP calls for removal of Confederate statue

OCALA, Fla. – Cities across the country are mulling over whether they should remove Confederate statues in the wake of the Charlottesville protests during the weekend.

In Central Florida, a confederate statue still stands in Marion County and officials with the county said they've received a single complaint to remove it.

"The national discussion has been about hate, about white supremacy or any other supremacists and that's just wrong," Marion County Commissioner Carl Zalak said.

Now, Zalak wants people take a walk through the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park and also take in the history it offers.

"Understanding our history is the real element here, doing that in a civil manner and without violence," he said. 

The park includes a Confederate statue that's nearly 110 years old. News 6 learned it was paid for, in part, by schoolchildren donating pennies.

Many veterans look at the statue as an opportunity, because it represents a dark part of American past, and, more importantly, stands as a reminder not repeat it.

"Let's not go back in time. We need to spend more time understanding what happened and make a difference," said Lewis Alston, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marines.

Alston does not want to see the statue go, but officials said if more people want to see it removed, it's something they will consider. 

"If our community wants to have that discussion, we lead this nation in doing that in a manner that is constructive and about history and not about the hate that's going around our country," Zalak said. 

Meanwhile, the local NAACP chapter in Marion County released a statement this afternoon:

The NAACP remains steadfast in our efforts to remove all symbols of the Confederacy from public grounds in Marion County. We believe that now is a time of courage for all people to embrace and commemorate symbols that unify, not divide. The statues and rebel flag of the Confederate States belong in a museum or on private property where individuals may choose to engage or not in viewing such symbols  of oppression and bigotry. No institution within our government should take part in endorsing the painful past that these symbols espouse by commemorating them on public property. This is a community issue, and we are confident that it can be solved here in our community. We are strategically developing a strong coalition of supporters from diverse backgrounds in Marion County who share in this belief. Furthermore, we will attempt to work closely with our elected officials to ensure that we promote unity and freedom within our communities during this critical time in our country.