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Controversial Boone County Courthouse murals moved over holiday

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Art historians removed controversial murals depicting slavery, hangings and whippings in the Boone County Courthouse on Monday.

Officials said that the historians moved the murals to a safe location due to the courthouse being closed because of Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day. The murals’ final site has yet to be determined.

The county installed the murals painted by Sid Larson 25 years ago.

The issue of removing the murals came to public attention when the lawyers, led by Rusty Antel and Gary Oxenhandler, asked the county commission to remove them from the courthouse because of the violence they depict. 

County commissioners took public comment on Sept. 28 on whether to keep or remove the murals.

"I think it's a misinterpretation of the murals; I think that's a sort of off the cuff reaction to one or two of the hundreds of images they contain and having them removed because of that kind of reaction without careful study of the murals would be a mistake," Bill Powell said.

Columbia defense attorney Robin Winn said her clients frequently tell her the murals make them uncomfortable. She said Boone County is no longer "the wild, wild West," and images showing what punishment was like then aren't fit for the courthouse.

On Thursday, the Boone County Commission voted to move the murals to a secure location to be maintained. The paintings would need to be kept in a temperature-controlled room to prevent damage.

Karl Wehmhoener

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