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Rantz: On private statues, Murray should mind his own business

Ed Murray. (File, AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

In a stunning example of government overreach, Mayor Ed Murray is speaking out in favor of removing a Confederate memorial on privately-owned land.

“We must remove statues and flags that represent this country’s abhorrent history of slavery and oppression based on the color of people’s skin,” Murray explained in a statement to his Twitter account. “The monument to Confederate soldiers in the Lake View Cemetery is located on private property. My office has called the cemetery operator to express our concerns regarding the monument. As we continue our ongoing proactive work to be an inclusive and welcoming community, we must also join the fight against the mainstreaming of hateful and despicable far-right political ideology.”

RELATED: Trump supporters rally to tear down Fremont’s Lenin statue

With respect to the mayor, he should mind his own business on political speech or historic symbolism when they’re erected on private property. It’s not the role of the government to chill free speech rights, even if we find it abhorrent. He knows he has no power to compel them to remove the memorial, so all this statement does is serve as a heavy-handed dose of virtue signaling that injects him into a national conversation that he should have no part in.

And perhaps, given the allegations against the Mayor, I’m not sure he should hold himself up there as a moral authority in any fight to stand up against oppressors.

But while we’re on the subject of joining the “fight against the mainstreaming of hateful and despicable” ideologies, perhaps he should turn his attention to the Lenin statue in Fremont, which celebrates an evil degenerate responsible for mass murder. Oh, but that’s art?

Look, I’m not particularly passionate either way about statues commemorating figures or events, but I am passionate about government officials trying to silence speech — whether they’re in the form of statues, art, blogs, or radio monologues – that they find objectionable, even if I share their objection. I’m not sure what the bar is when determining what is objectionable or not and I’m not comfortable allowing Murray, or any politician, being the arbiter. I just know that when your worst enemy has the power to silence your speech (or tear down your statues), we’ll lose and Murray may be in power now, he may not always be. Something tells me he’d be unhappy to cede that power to those who are diametrically opposed to his view, even if I share his disgust with the Confederacy.

The mayor’s office forwarded me this statement, that has been used for years, concerning the Lenin statue. This is Murray’s current position. While not nearly as forceful as his statement on the cemetery statue, it shows the Mayor’s consistent in what should be taken down; unfortunately, it also shows a consistent government overreach.

Unfortunately, the statue is on private property; the decision to take it down is up to the owner. It is our understanding that the statue has been up for sale for several years.

We share your hope that the statue will come down in the near future, and that perhaps the space can instead be used for a monument that better reflects Seattle’s values of inclusivity, kindness, and respect. Thank you again for taking the time to write.

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