Snooty the manatee’s memory has become an inadvertent pawn between those who want to erase the racist motives of the Confederacy and those who believe the Confederacy is an important part of American history.
As of Thursday, a petition to replace a Confederate war memorial at the Manatee County Courthouse with a Snooty memorial has garnered 12,916 online signatures, with a goal of reaching 15,000.
The petition will likely be presented to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners at some point, but the petition is not official, rather a symbol of supporting the action. Scott Farrington, assistant Manatee County Supervisor of Elections said no formal paperwork has been filed with his office to create the petition.
Since the erection of the memorial was authorized by the county commissionin 1924, Farrington said the petition has no impact.
“There is no method by petition to force the county into doing something,” Farrington said. “It’s an unofficial petition and quite frankly, there is no purpose to it other than to show support for something.”
Any action to replace the memorial and reverse the 1924 decision can be taken by the current board of commissioners, but there has been no official indication yet that the board will do so. Whether the petition will have any influence is unclear.
Just in case it does, Save Southern Heritage is voicing opposition to the proposal and the petition.
Save Southern Heritage spokesman David McCallister said, “Most of the signers of the petition appear to be outside of Manatee County.”
Petition creator Anthony Pusateri acknowledged in late July that signatures have come from as far away as California.
McCallister released a statement Thursday saying members of the group were “shocked and dismayed” to learn of Snooty’s drowning accident on July 23, but said the proposal to replace the war memorial was not the answer.
“Our sympathy goes out to all Snooty lovers in and outside of Florida,” McCallister said. “I took my children to see Snooty, we all loved Snooty. We’re all for putting up a statue of Snooty in Manatee County. Snooty is an icon for locals and tourists alike and a statue would be a fitting tribute. He certainly is part of our Florida history and heritage, and we support those kind of memorials.”
However, Save Southern Heritage objects to the replacement. McCallister said, “We would like to see an additional memorial. It is wrong to take down a veterans memorial when there is plenty of space for an additional one.”
The online petition calls for the Confederate memorial to be removed and placed somewhere out of the “public eye,” calling it a “negative symbol of racism and oppression.”
According to Save Southern Heritage’s website, the group “does not condone racism and as such, do not support any group or person that does. ... Graves, street names, county names, historic cenotaphs and monuments are all under attack by the anti-history, anti-American heritage haters.”
The memorial was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and states on the front, “In Memory of Our Confederate Soldiers.”