With each paint stroke, Rod O'Barr works to restore a Confederate monument in Fort Sanders after it was vandalized with paint.

"This was put up to honor Confederate Veterans and Tennesseans," O'Barr said Thursday as he scrubbed away the blue paint.

O'Barr is with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"We are not a racist group. We don't believe in white supremacists. We are against all of that," he said.

He said their job is to defend the honor and heritage of the Confederate soldier.

While it's a task to clean up the monument, it's worth it for O'Barr.

"It is for me, more so because of the men it represents and the history it represents," he said.

The monument represents honor for the group but for others, like columnist and civil rights activist Theotis Robinson Jr., it's quite the opposite.

"They mean a representation of things that I have fought against all my life," Robinson said.

Robinson was the first African American student at the University of Tennessee. He wasn't aware of the monument before this week, but said the message behind them needs to be clear.

"We need to come to grips ... are we remembering history or are we celebrating sedition and treason with these monuments?" Robinson said.

MORE: Professor: Fort Sanders Confederate monument honors dead, not cause

Dr. Derek Elderman, a geographer at UT, explained the different perceptions behind war monuments like the one in Fort Sanders.

"Those monuments are very complicated symbols. They are placed in a lot of different conflicted very painful histories. I think what we have to do is discuss those histories and discussing the way white supremacy has operated within the United States," Elderman said.

O'Barr said the monument needs to be respected and people need to focus on respecting others.

"We just got to come together as a nation. We've got to find a way to respect each other, respect each other's heritages and make room for all of our heritages," O'Barr said.

Two separate petitions were created in terms of this monument. The first one was created to have the monument removed, and another was created to counter the original petition, and in support of having the monument stay put.

Officials with the city of Knoxville told 10News the monument is on public property and in order for it to be removed, the Tennessee Historical Commission would have to come to a majority vote on the issue.