Port Angeles mayor wants to remove colonial soldier images from fence
UPDATE: Mayor Sissi Bruch has decided not to pursue altering the fence. In a press release on Tuesday, she said that the item would be removed from Wednesday evening’s city council meeting agenda, according to the Peninsula Daily News.
“It was clear from the responses that we received that we were not going to be able to have a thoughtful conversation about this topic tomorrow night,” she said in her statement. “The original intent, to have a robust discussion around the use of symbolism to celebrate our veterans has been lost. Out of the concern for our community, staff and council, as they have had to deal with a lot of emotion around this issue due to the spread of misleading and incorrect information, we will not be discussing this item.”
The mayor of Port Angeles is reportedly taking aim at a fence in front of Veterans Memorial Park in Port Angeles depicting Revolutionary War-era soldiers with muskets.
The city decided to put the fence in place after the park’s replica of the Liberty Bell was vandalized. Money for the fence was raised exclusively through donations.
World-renowned Port Angeles sculptor Bob Stokes and welding partner Gray Lucier were chosen by the city to create the design. Stokes has created art for significant sites around the globe, including Naval Station Pearl Harbor and San Francisco City Hall, and for famous personages, such as Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton, Ralph Lauren, and George Lucas.
Stokes, who has also designed many pieces of artwork for Port Angeles, heard from residents that they did not wish a utilitarian chain-link fence to obstruct the Liberty Bell replica.
“I went up to the city … and I said, ‘What about if we make it a nice artistic fence?'” he recalled. “They said, ‘Give it a shot.'”
To decorate the iron fence, Stokes and Lucier created 13 stars to represent the original 13 Colonies, along with silhouettes of two Revolutionary War soldiers holding muskets.
“If you go to the original Liberty Bell back in [Philadelphia], there’s a 24-hour armed guard standing guard over it, just like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he explained to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.
The city approved the design and the fence went up earlier this autumn.
Now, however, Port Angeles Mayor Sissi Bruch wants the city to remove the silhouettes from the fence because they depict guns.
At this Wednesday’s Port Angeles City Council meeting, the council will deliberate on altering the fence.
“There have been many complaints regarding the two large soldiers with guns being used as decorative elements to this fence,” Bruch wrote in her memo to the council. “Given that our nation is experiencing an outbreak in gun violence in our schools and our communities, it is easy to see why these elements have caused such concern.”
She then suggested that other patriotic images, such as flags, eagles, or anchors, could be created instead, or that the soldiers could be redesigned so that they are not armed.
After months of working on the fence and weeks of enjoying it in the community, Stokes was taken aback at this mayoral recommendation.
“I just think it’s a little late in the game, because the drawings have been out, the gates have been finished for quite a while, and for this to come up — and you know what?” Stokes said. “Nobody comes up to me and says, ‘What the [heck] are you doing, Bob?’ Everybody comes up to me and says, ‘Thank you.'”
Because he has not heard any negative feedback, he wonders if the mayor might have a personal vendetta against guns.
For Stokes, the depiction of the soldiers who made America the world’s original modern republic is a deeply meaningful one. His nephew died fighting in Afghanistan.
“It’s representing the vets. It’s not about promoting guns,” he said. “It’s historical — it’s the Veterans Memorial Park. I mean, that’s just our history.”
The Dori Monson Show reached out to Mayor Bruch for comment but has not yet received a response. The story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.