Lawsuit filed over Maryland’s last standing Confederate statue

Talbot County is facing a federal lawsuit over its council’s decision to keep the last Confederate statue in Maryland standing outside its courthouse.

“The final vestige of the traitorous Confederacy has got to go,” ACLU of Maryland President Dana Vickers Shelley said of the last statue to the confederacy still standing on public land.

The statue of a soldier dedicated to the county’s citizens who fought for the South in the Civil War, called the “Talbot Boys,” stands outside of the county courthouse in Easton.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years as an assistant public defender in Talbot County. All of that time, in order for me to do my job, I had to walk, and I still have to walk, by that statue — that statue that symbolizes hate and suppression, and white supremacy,” said Kisha Petticolas, with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Her office, the NAACP of Maryland and the ACLU joined together to file a lawsuit against the county council’s decision to retain the statue which stands where a slave auction block once stood, according to the ACLU.

Last August, the County Council voted against its removal.

“We have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, identifying nine counts, both federal, and state constitutional violations, as well as common law counts against Talbot County; all related to its continued defiance in light of the community action, the community calls to remove the Confederate statue known as the Talbot Boys,” said attorney Kelly Hibbert, who grew up in Talbot County.

Hibbert, who represents Crowell and Moring LLP, said there is precedent for this type of lawsuit, including recently in Fairfax County, Virginia, where a judge ruled a Black defendant could not receive a fair trial in a courtroom decorated with the portraits of white judges and ordered those portraits removed.

“Here, we’re faced with the exact same consequences with the statue here being right in front of the county courthouse, steps away from the door, where our Black citizens have to walk through to conduct their business in the courthouse,” Hibbert said.

She contends that there have been no discussions with any member of the Talbot County Council since the lawsuit was filed, but said “we are available” to discuss a resolution outside of court.

After the press conference announcing the suit Wednesday, County Council member Corey Pack said the county had not been formally served with the suit and could not offer comment.

Meanwhile, a march is being organized to raise attention to the call for the statue’s removal by the Move the Monument Coalition in Talbot County.

“On June 19, we are holding a march and rally in Easton, to call on the county council to do the right thing and remove this statue. So that de Juneteenth is a time for celebrating the end of slavery, we will be highlighting the struggle that continues, and the unfinished business of bringing about racial justice,” said Denice Lombard with the group.

Roughly 13% of Talbot County’s 37,000 residents are Black, the lawsuit notes.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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