By James Beaty
“We’re not going away.”
So spoke Lonnie Lu Anderson following the opening segment of the city council meeting held at McAlester City Hall on Tuesday night.
Anderson spoke in the crowded lobby of City Hall after the city council voted to postpone making any decision on whether to replace silhouetted figures containing crosses that have been removed from city street signs.
Although that not how the issue was phrased on the agenda, it’s clear that was the issue at hand when an overflow crowd once again jammed into City Hall for the Tuesday night council meeting.
Anderson had been among those attending the meeting strongly in support of having the figures with the crosses replaced atop the street signs. They were recently ordered removed by City Manager Pete Stasiak after he said he received a complaint about them.
They were part of a parcel of more than 100 metal silhouettes given to the city by McAlester businessman Bob Wallace, typically depicting historical or traditional scenes.
So many people, mostly from area churches, packed the Council Chambers at City Hall for the Tuesday night meeting, that city workers opened a second room upstairs, where those who could not find a seat downstairs could watch the proceedings on television.
Several speakers addressed the council, urging the city councilors to order the nine silhouetted figures that have been moved be replaced.
James Prince, representing the Gaines Creek Association of Free Will Baptist, spoke first.
He said the city has approached the entire matter from the standpoint of “what can we do to keep from getting in trouble” with the individual Stasiak said contacted him in opposition to the crosses on the few figurines in question.
“Why did the city not have the same concern before taking down the crosses?”Prince asked.
“The city obviously took the Christian community for granted,” that they would not cause a big uproar, he said.
He then read from scriptures from Ezekiel.
“You are the watchmen,” Prince said, looking at the city councilors.
With each generation, the hearts of youth are getting harder and harder, because no one will stand up, Prince said.
“They will never, I say never, confine God,” he said. Prince asked the council to take a stand and return the crosses to their previous locations.
Anderson addressed the council next.
“In our constitution, it does not say anything about the separation of church and state,” she said.
“As Christians, we need to speak up,” Anderson continued.
Joe Watkins also addressed the council.
“We’re not trying to force this down anybody’s throat,” he said. “We’re only doing what we’re led to do by the Bible.”
Referring to City Hall, Watkins said “you’ve got ‘In God We Trust’ on the outside wall.
“I’m asking you to trust in God.”
City councilors also heard from Julia Collins Dedmon. She said she wanted to see what kind of precedents had already been set. She noted that the God’s Little Angel memorial in Chadick Park has an archway with a cross and she also noted the presence of crosses in the city’s cemetery.
“I find a big discrepancy why the cross on the street signs differ from the cross on the archway, she said.
“I would like to see the crosses put back,” Dedmon said. “I would like to ask that we don’t take down what’s already there.”
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