Black leaders: Remove Confederate monuments from Arizona

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There was one minor Civil War battle fought in Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) There was one minor Civil War battle fought in Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Black leaders in Arizona are pushing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to remove six Confederate monuments on public land that they say are offensive and glorify the country's racist past.

The push comes as communities along the South wrestle with whether to keep longstanding symbols of the Confederacy. Three monuments were removed in New Orleans recently, and Mississippi officials have debated the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem.

In Arizona, leaders from local NAACP chapters said Monday they are calling on Ducey to remove the monuments, including one at the state capitol that was erected in 1961. They also include a marker at Picacho Peak north of Tucson dedicated to Confederate soldiers who defended the area during a battle with Union soldiers and a highway named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

[RELATED: Questions raised over Confederate monuments in Arizona]

"We should not acknowledge and commemorate or deify the Confederate soldiers, as they were enslavers. They were secessionists, they were segregationists, they were haters, racial bigots," said East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr. said.

However, the governor says he will not be jumping into the controversy and that he's leaving it up to citizens as well as state boards and commissions to decide the matter.

"I think we need to have a state that is welcoming to everyone. I talk a lot about opportunity for all, yet, at the same time many of these memorials that have been put up are there for a reason and that's why I think it should go through a citizens review process," Ducey said.

Leaders on Monday said the governor has given them lip service since they began a campaign to remove Confederate monuments two years ago. They are pushing Ducey to take executive action to remove the monuments now. They added that their chances are good because of recent changes in how cities in Southern states like Louisiana are removing them.

Marshall Trimble, the state historian, said Arizona was briefly a Confederate territory and that a Confederate force occupied Tucson for a few weeks during the Civil War. The state joined the union in 1912.

Trimble said the push to remove the monuments is misguided and unjustly erases American history.

"One thing that America should be proud is that it's never tried to expunge or hide its history. It's let the world see its warts and all," Trimble said. "Our country has not been perfect. The slavery issue is a real blot on American history."

But activists said it's time Arizona rid itself of its Confederate monuments on public land.

"The state of Arizona has no place in the propping of these symbols of intolerance by allowing those symbols to be placed on state property, and that assumes that our government is sympathetic to these victimizers and all they stood for," said state Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat from Laveen.

[RELATED: Confederate flag controversy reaches Arizona (Jun 24, 2015)]

[RELATED: Old South monument backers embrace "Confederate Catechism"]

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