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Belle Plaine City Council Eliminates 'Free Speech' Area In Vets Memorial Park

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The city of Belle Plaine will eliminate a "free speech area" in a park that's caused controversy in the small town.

Councilors made the decision at their meeting Monday night, but did not discuss the issue or open it up for public comment.

The city created the free speech area to allow for a statue, with a cross on it, to stay in the Veterans Memorial Park.

A religious freedom group threatened to sue because of the cross. The family who put up the statue then took it down.

Soon after that, the city announced a Satanic monument would be going up in the park.

On Saturday, more than 100 people protested against it.

The park will now be free of any memorials.

Belle Plaine city officials released a statement Tuesday morning:

Last night, the Belle Plaine City Council voted to rescind a resolution enacted in February, 2017, that allowed individuals or organizations to place and maintain privately-owned displays in a designated space of the city-owned Veterans Memorial Park.

As called-for in the resolution, owners of all privately-owned Park displays currently located in the Park's designated space are now being given 10 days' notice to remove the displays. Our local veterans organizations are supportive of this action.

The original intent of providing the public space was to recognize those who have bravely contributed to defending our nation through their military service. In recent weeks and months, though, that intent has been overshadowed by freedom of speech concerns expressed by both religious and non-religious communities.

The debate between those communities has drawn significant regional and national attention to our city, and has promoted divisiveness among our own residents.

While this debate has a place in public dialogue, it has detracted from our city's original intent of designating a space solely for the purpose of honoring and memorializing military veterans, and has also portrayed our city in a negative light.

Therefore, the Council believes that it is in the best interests of our Belle Plaine community to rescind the resolution, and bring this divisive matter to closure.

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