Proclamation for Ocala's Confederate Memorial Day makes no mention of slavery

Mayor enters proclamation at request of United Daughters of the Confederacy

OCALA, Fla. – At a press conference held late Wednesday afternoon, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn addressed heated concerns after he declared April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day. 

The proclamation was presented and approved during Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Guinn said the day would "honor those who died who were Confederate soldiers."

"To me personally, it was about honoring veterans," said Mayor Guinn.

Wednesday, Guinn told reporters he made the proclamation after two people came forward asking to preserve history.

He said it's something the city has done before.

"We’ve got like 48,000 veterans here in Marion County, and so I’m just honoring veterans - that’s all it meant to me, didn’t mean anything more than that," said Guinn.

The day would "recall the tragic events that took place between the years of 1861 and 1865, we do so in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the conflicting ideals and passions that pitted brother against brother and tore a nation apart," according to the proclamation.

City Council president Mary Sue Rich spoke out boldly at Tuesday's meeting in opposition to the proclamation.  She made the point that it doesn't align with what she said needs to happen in 2019.

Councilwoman Rich spoke with reporters Wednesday prior to the mayor's press conference.

"During the Confederacy was a bad time for African Americans," said Rich.  "It is history and that’s where it should stay, in the history books."

Rich said the proclamation is insensitive and a bad reminder for African Americans.

"They were held as slaves, they were killed and nothing pleasant happened to my ancestors," said Councilwoman Rich.

The proclamation fails to mention the cause of the "conflicting ideas and passions" was due to the enslavement of millions of African Americans.

The word slavery is not mentioned in the proclamation with the city seal and Guinn's signature.

At the end of the Civil War, after 250 years of enslaving African Americans, slavery was abolished under the 13th Amendment, setting millions of people free.

However, their rights were not fully restored and people of color continued to face mistreatment.

The city has previously recognized Confederate history during Florida Confederate History Month in 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

"Not one word of a problem in doing this in years past," Guinn said. "I was simply honoring the request of these folks."

Guinn was previously accused of being in the Ku Klux Klan in 2015.

He denied those allegation brought forth by the hacking group Anonymous. He again denied those allegations on Wednesday.

"I despise what those groups stand for," he said.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia call April Confederate History Month.

Cities other than Ocala that have made similar proclamations have faced backlash.

Mayor Guinn told News 6 he's meeting with six Marion County pastors to get a better understanding of their concerns.