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Will a Confederate monument appear again in a Florida downtown? It’s up to a vote

Manatee County leaders have considered returning a controversial Confederate monument to downtown Bradenton.

The Board of County Commissioners was expected to discuss it again during a public meeting on Tuesday, but it was removed from the agenda after a protest by the League of Women Voters of Manatee County was announced.

To make a return, four of the seven board members must vote in support of the monument.

With that in mind, here are five things to know about Bradenton’s 22-foot-tall Confederate monument:

Why was it taken down?

In August 2017, commissioners voted to remove the monument. It was a narrow, 4-3 decision to remove it from the Manatee County Courthouse one day after hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters clashed.

Removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces picked up steam nationwide following the 2015 racial shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine members of a Black congregation were killed.

Dylann Roof was convicted and became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime, according to the Associated Press.

In the months leading up to the shooting, he had taken photos posing with a Confederate flag.

Then in August 2017, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia brought white supremacist groups together to oppose the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Images of protesters with lighted torches and Nazi and Confederate flags were seen on screens across the country, and it renewed debate around Confederate imagery.

In Manatee County, commission members first chose to cover the Confederate monument, which the board owns, with sheets of wood before relocating it.

The cost of the removal at the time was $12,700.

When did the Bradenton Confederate monument go up?

The 22-foot tall granite obelisk was erected in 1924 — nearly 60 years after the Civil War ended — to commemorate Confederate figures Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the ‘memory of our Confederate soldiers,’” according to monument’s inscription.

The Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised money to install the monument outside the county’s courthouse.

Local archives list 59 Confederate and six Union soldiers lived in Manatee County during the Civil War era.

The statue was installed during the Jim Crow era, when local, state and federal laws put restrictions on daily life for Black Americans, resulting in a segregation system that existed until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Most Confederate statues were constructed between the 1890s and 1950s in the wake of Reconstruction well after the Civil War ended, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Where is it now?

The vote following public backlash to remove the monument did not mean it was destroyed at the time. Rather, it was moved into storage.

But when workers attempted to remove the monument in the middle of the night in 2017, the obelisk’s spire fell and broke into two pieces.

It remains broken in storage. In 2019, the estimated cost to repair it was $40,000. However, in a recent statement provided to the Bradenton Herald, county spokesperson Bill Logan said the updated cost of the repair is $18,750.

“The recommendation is that it be restored and refurbished on site — the site where it’s going to rest,” County administrator Scott Hopes said. “So, if that is the goal, we have a strategy to fill that goal of the board.”

How many Confederate monuments have been removed?

The Southern Law Poverty Center released a third edition of its “Whose Heritage” report that details how many Confederate memorials exist throughout the United States in February 2022.

As of late January 2022, the SPLC report listed 723 live monuments to the Confederacy. There are also 741 roadways, 201 schools, 104 counties and municipalities, 38 parks, 51 buildings, 22 holidays, 10 military bases, seven commemorative license plates, six bodies of water and six bridges dedicated to honoring the Confederacy, according to the SPLC report.

In December, an airplane flew over a Jacksonville Jaguars home football game. The plane dragged a banner that read, “PUT MONUMENTS BACK,” along with a Confederate flag, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Will it get restored?

A board meeting will determine whether or not the monument gets restored, though it is unclear when that will be following the item’s removal from the board’s Tuesday agenda.

Of the current board members, only Vanessa Baugh was on the board at the time it was removed in 2017.

Five members of the current board indicated earlier in January they support restoring the monument.

“I don’t like ignoring our history. It is what it is. Some things about it are good, some things aren’t, but it’s our history,” said Baugh, who voted against taking the monument down in 2017. “We shouldn’t be changing our history.”

Two board members, Amanda Ballard and George Kruse, opposed the idea.

“It’s one thing to be a community that takes it down or leaves it up, but it’s another thing to put one up,” Kruse said. “I’m sorry, but you’re not going to get my vote to put that thing back up. I just think you’re starting a war. It doesn’t make sense.”

A monument which remembers Confederate veterans, was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument, which has a Confederate flag etched on one side, was unveiled in June 1924 and sat outside the Manatee County Historic Courthouse.
A monument which remembers Confederate veterans, was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument, which has a Confederate flag etched on one side, was unveiled in June 1924 and sat outside the Manatee County Historic Courthouse.
Bradenton’s Confederate monument stood near the historic courthouse for more than 90 years before it was removed in 2017.
Bradenton’s Confederate monument stood near the historic courthouse for more than 90 years before it was removed in 2017.
Manatee County Commissioners discussed the protests and counter protests for and against the Confederate monument, seen here covered in plywood, at the Historic Courthouse.
Manatee County Commissioners discussed the protests and counter protests for and against the Confederate monument, seen here covered in plywood, at the Historic Courthouse.
Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies patrol on horseback, on roofs and surrounding the monument as protesters demanding the Confederate monument’s removal and counter protestors wanting it to remain gather at the historic courthouse Monday.
Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies patrol on horseback, on roofs and surrounding the monument as protesters demanding the Confederate monument’s removal and counter protestors wanting it to remain gather at the historic courthouse Monday.
Activists from Black Lives Matter, AntiFa and Answer Coalition hold signs while they argue with pro-monument protestors for the removal of the confederate monument in front of the Manatee County Historic Courthouse on Monday evening in downtown Bradenton.
Activists from Black Lives Matter, AntiFa and Answer Coalition hold signs while they argue with pro-monument protestors for the removal of the confederate monument in front of the Manatee County Historic Courthouse on Monday evening in downtown Bradenton.