SANTA ANA — A monument put up in the Santa Ana Cemetery by the Sons of Confederate Veterans was defaced with red paint over the weekend, and — unrelated to the vandalism — it may soon be removed entirely, it was reported Tuesday.
The 7-ton granite memorial was installed at the cemetery in 2004 to commemorate some of Orange County’s founding fathers, including those who had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, the Orange County Register reported.
It wasn’t intended to glorify the Confederacy or anything that happened in the war, but people don’t always realize that, said Patricia Bricken, whose late father, Gordon, helped install the memorial and is now buried about 10 feet away. Bricken said she plans to return Tuesday to clean off the red paint.
Late Saturday or early Sunday, someone entered the cemetery while it was closed and covered most of the monument with red paint and wrote the word “racists” on it, echoing similar incidents reported in southern states including Kentucky and Tennessee in recent months. Orange County Cemetery District General Manager Tim Deutsch said the vandalism was discovered Sunday and reported to police. He noted the monument is not directly visible on cemetery security cameras.
However, the memorial may not be around much longer regardless, the Register reported. Long before it was defaced, officials with the cemetery district — which runs the Santa Ana Cemetery and two others — discussed removing the monument because they couldn’t find any record of the district’s board approving the design and no record that the Sons of Confederate Veterans had received permits to erect the memorial or bought the burial plots it sits on, Deutsch said.
The board initially said the monument could stay with certain modifications — one was to include only names of people who had died in Orange County — but not all the conditions were met, and at some point the group stopped responding to the district’s letters, Deutsch said. “We assumed that they were silent and they weren’t doing any more” to meet the board’s requirements, he said, so last week board members told him to go ahead and have the monument removed.
The leader of the California chapter to whom the district’s letters were addressed could not be reached for comment.
More than 300 Civil War veterans, predominantly from the Union side, are buried in the Santa Ana Cemetery, which is also home to a monument to “the unknown dead of the Civil War” erected by the Daughters of Union Veterans. Deutsch said the cemetery board’s attention was called to the memorial in August 2017, during a national conversation about such monuments that was fueled by a Robert E. Lee statue protest that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bricken could see why the Santa Ana monument might be perceived as supporting the Confederacy, she said, but her father, an amateur historian, always called it the founders’ monument. “That’s part of our freedom, is that we should be able to erect monuments to whoever we want, especially on private land,” Bricken said. “We didn’t force it down anybody’s throat at all.”