Tampa Civil War mon­u­ment re­mains

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By TA­MARA LUSH

TAMPA, Fla. - Of­fi­cials de­cided Wed­nes­day not to move a Con­fed­er­ate me­mo­rial from in front of a Florida court­house. In­stead, a mu­ral will be put be­hind it to dis­play, in the words of one county leader, “the love and di­ver­sity” in the com­mu­nity. The Hills­bor­ough County Com­mis­sion voted 4-3 Wed­nes­day not to re­move a statue that was erected in Tampa in 1911. Called `Me­mo­ria In Aeterna,' it sits out­side of a court­house ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ing and de­picts two Civil War sol­diers next to an obelisk.

“It's time to take that mon­u­ment down. It rep­re­sents di­vi­sive­ness, it rep­re­sents an era of bondage of African Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said com­mis­sioner Les Miller, who first pro­posed the re­moval.

But af­ter lis­ten­ing to more than two hours of im­pas­sioned public com­ment, an­other com­mis­sioner said a com­pro­mise was needed.

“If we don't look for a com­pro­mise or con­sen­sus, there's go­ing to be ha­tred and anger that could last for decades,” said com­mis­sioner Vic­tor Crist. “If we want to heal a com­mu­nity, if we want to bring peo­ple to­gether, we need to take this, re­gard­less of how it's viewed and wrap our love around it.”

Com­mis­sion cham­bers were packed, with sev­eral peo­ple hold­ing signs that said,“Amer­i­cans build mon­u­ments we don't re­move them!”

Emo­tions were al­ready run­ning high as de­bate got un­der­way. A woman with an Amer­i­can flag slung over her body like a sash spoke dur­ing public com­ment and played a mu­sic video show­ing var­i­ous mon­u­ments around the coun­try.

Com­mis­sion chair Stacy White im­plored peo­ple in the au­di­ence to be po­lite.

Ad­vo­cates of South­ern her­itage say re­mov­ing th­ese sym­bols is a dis­ser­vice to the men who fought in the Civil War.

“An Amer­i­can vet­eran is a vet­eran. They de­serve to be re­spected,” said county res­i­dent Donny McCurry.

The mon­u­ment sits in front of a county build­ing that con­tains ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices and traf­fic court. Fac­ing north, the statue de­picts a proud and young Con­fed­er­ate soldier, while fac­ing south, a bat­tered and weary soldier in tat­tered cloth­ing plods along.

Miller, who is an Air Force vet­eran, has been com­pared to the Is­lamic State and the Tal­iban for want­ing to re­move the statue.

One speaker said the de­sire to move the mon­u­ments is a “crazed ob­ses­sion by rad­i­cal left­ists.”

Oth­ers sug­gested that racism was tied to the mon­u­ment from the be­gin­ning.

When the me­mo­rial was erected and ded­i­cated in down­town Tampa in 1911, state at­tor­ney Her­bert S. Phillips, said: “The South stands ready to wel­come all good cit­i­zens who seek to make their homes within her bor­ders. But the South de­tests and de­spises all, it mat­ters not from whence they came, who, in any man­ner, en­cour­ages so­cial equal­ity with an ig­no­rant and in­fe­rior race.”

Sev­eral speak­ers cited the pas­sage - which was in a lo­cal pa­per over the week­end - as ev­i­dence of the statue's racist roots.

Sup­port­ers of re­mov­ing the statue said they were deeply dis­ap­pointed in the idea of a mu­ral and say it's an in­di­ca­tion that white supremacy still reigns.

“The plan is to put a mon­u­ment be­hind a mon­u­ment, show­ing that hate is still up front,” said res­i­dent Jae Pass­more. “As a com­bat vet­eran who served twice over­seas, this isn't about be­ing a vet­eran's mon­u­ment, a war mon­u­ment. This was a mon­u­ment put there to rein­vig­o­rate the cit­i­zens of Tampa in that time pe­riod and let them know that white peo­ple were still in charge.”

She added that when she walks by and sees the mon­u­ment, “It tells me that black lives don't mat­ter in Tampa, in this county and this state.”

About 75 miles to the north­east, city work­ers in Or­lando on Tues­day started mov­ing a Con­fed­er­ate statue called “Johnny Reb'' from a park in the heart of down­town to a nearby ceme­tery, fol­low­ing re­newed public out­cry that it's a sym­bol of racism and white supremacy.


Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment in Tampa


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