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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

"Remove the Racist Confederate Statue," Allendale group debuts protest billboard

Allendale for Equality

The battle continues over the Civil War Statue inside Allendale Community Park. A local group, Allendale for Equality, debuted a billboard on Monday which features an image of the structure’s Confederate soldier and reads “Remove the Racist Confederate Statue.”

The statue sits in the community park’s Garden of Honor and depicts one Union soldier and one Confederate soldier standing back-to-back, with a child slave at their feet reaching for sign that reads “freedom to slaves.”

The debate over the statue’s fate has continued for months. After protests, counter protests and heated township meetings, the Allendale Township Board decided to keep the statue in late June, putting together a diverse advisory committee to oversee changes.

Phoebe Risk, a Grand Valley State University student and member of Allendale for Equality, said the billboard came as a response to waning conversations with township officials.

“The committee and the plaque, these are all just small, small ways to skirt the real issue. The board doesn’t want to take a stance because they know that it’s going to change things once they do, but that’s what the community needs it needs change,” Risk said in response to the board’s attempts, “The billboard wasn’t meant to divide our community. It was made to engage people, ask them to look inward, complete some introspection and ask ‘is this really what I want Allendale to look like?’”

When asked about the ongoing statue debate and the recent billboard, Allendale Township Supervisor, Adam Elenbaas, told WGVU in a statement:

“I don’t have any comment on the billboard.  The direction from the Township Board was to receive input from a committee, and that has not changed.  The purpose of the committee is to include a range of voices from our community, not just the loudest ones.”

According the Elenbaas, the advisory committee had to pause meetings due to COVID-19 order from the state Capitol. The group will meet again when orders are lifted.

The billboard has since been taken down. Risk cited a property battle as the cause, but said Allendale for Equality will continue to push forward until the statue is taken down.

“Allendale is now a community of exclusion and not inclusion, and until that statue comes down that’s how it will remain,” she said