Lexington inched one step closer to moving two Confederate statues with Monday’s announcement of a preliminary agreement to move the monuments to the Lexington Cemetery. But it's not a done deal yet.
Mayor Gray started the press conference on an optimistic note.
"As you can see, I am smiling and I am hopeful and I am thankful," he began.
Yet the announcement came packaged with caveats, as speakers noted that the cemetery’s provisional agreement to house the controversial memorials to Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge hinges on the outcome of ongoing talks between the parties.
"We are very, very close to where we want to be," said DeBraun Thomas with Take Back Cheapside, a group that’s been leading the charge to move the memorials. "We are not there yet."
One remaining sticking point is security, an issue Police Chief Mark Barnard personally addressed with the cemetery board.
"It was a position they never thought they would be in, so they had great questions and concerns," Barnard told reporters. "We have them an intelligence briefing of what we saw throughout the country, what was going on in the state and here in Lexington, and we told them we would stand with them through this process with whatever decision they made."
To ease those concerns, Gray has also informed cemetery trustees of a private endowment set up to fund upkeep and security for the statues, which have attracted the attention of white nationalist groups who have signaled an intent to rally in Lexington.
The city's Urban County Council voted unanimously to find the statues a new home in August.
Now the city’s task is to get to a firm “yes” by the end of this week, when the mayor’s 30-day deadline to deliver a recommendation to council comes to an end. If successful, the matter goes on to the five-member Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.