Ocala Mayor proclaims Confederate Memorial Day, faces criticism

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A proclamation at Tuesday night’s city council meeting in Ocala has members of the council and the mayor exchanging some heated words.  The city council president is now calling the mayor sometimes insensitive and possibly racist.

“When people say you're a member of the Ku Klux Klan, I'm beginning to believe them," said Ocala City Council President Mary Rich.  "I don't think you deserve to be the mayor of Ocala. I hope someone runs against you.”

Those explosive comments from Rich came after the mayor read a proclamation at Tuesday’s meeting, announcing that April 26 would be Confederate Memorial Day.

“It is history and that's where it should stay -- in the history books!” Rich added. 

The proclamation cites April as the month the Confederate states started and ended the fight for independence. It states that Florida lent more soldiers, sailors and livestock to the Confederate cause, than any other state, and that April 26 has been designated a legal holiday by the State of Florida. The mayor on Wednesday defended his proclamationy.

"I am a big veteran and want to support the veterans, and this for me was simply a way to recognize them,” said Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn.

The City of Ocala has made similar proclamations in 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2014 - each of them declared April Confederate History Month. Rich says, as a black woman, declaring a Confederate Memorial Day means something different to her.

“They were held as slaves. They were killed and nothing pleasant happened to my ancestors,” said Rich.

"I am not, repeat not, in the KKK,” Guinn says. "I never have been; I never will be. I despise and hate everything that the organization stands for."

Mayor Guinn was accused of being a member of the KKK in 2015. He denied those allegations.

The Marion County Commission is said to have a made an identical proclamation to Guinn's on March 19th.

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