State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, has filed legislation that would ban the display of Confederate flags and symbols on publicly owned or leased property.
Rouson, who represents the Palmetto and Bradenton area along the U.S. 41 corridor, said he filed the legislation Thursday at the request of state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. She is the sponsor of the original Senate legislation, and asked Rouson to be the House sponsor.
"For me, it (the Confederate flag) represents a symbol of slavery and protecting hatred and discrimination based on people's race and ethnicity," said Rouson, who is black. "It's painful."
Rouson said when he sees the flag he's reminded of how people would use it to protest integration in St. Petersburg in the 1960s and '70s.
"I have feelings and sensitivity to the whole issue, as I think most people in this country do," he said.
The bill would allow injunctive relief for parties who file civil action against governments that display the flag on public property. It would cover all symbols of the Confederate military -- not just the flag.
"The display of the flag or emblem of the Confederate States of America, or any flag or emblem used by the Confederate States of America or its military or naval forces at any time within the years 1860 to 1865, on any building, structure, real property, or personal property owned or leased by the state, a county, municipality, or other governmental unit of this state is prohibited."
The proposed law has no effect on displaying Confederate symbols on private property.
"We can't control what people do in the privacy of their own homes," Rouson said. "But we can control what is displayed on public property."
A marble-gray monument is dedicated to Confederate soldiers in downtown Bradenton on the west side of the Manatee County Courthouse, and a Confederate flag is etched into the side. The monument, which honors Confederate veterans, was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and unveiled in 1924.
Rouson said the etching of the flag on that monument would be illegal under the bill. The Manatee County Commission would be responsible for removing it.
Strong calls to remove the Confederate flag began in June after Dylann Roof reportedly killed nine members of a predominantly black church in Charleston, S.C., and images of him with a Confederate flag surfaced online.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.