Petition launches to replace Confederate monument with statue of Snooty

As the community mourns, a petition on Change.org to replace the Confederate monument in front of the Manatee County courthouse garnered more than 1,500 signatures in less than 24 hours.

The man who started the petition has a specific replacement in mind: A statue of Snooty the manatee.

Snooty drowned after becoming stuck in the life support maintenance area at his home at the South Florida Museum Sunday, just two days after celebrating his 69th birthday.

According to Jeff Rodgers, museum chief operating officer, the panel on the are was last opened five years ago and is for emergency use only.

Beloved Snooty’s death was a tragic shock to the community and to the petition’s creator, Anthony Pusateri.

After living in Manatee County most of his life and being around Snooty his whole childhood, Snooty is important to him, Pusateri said.

Pusateri created a petition to replace the Confederate monument in front of the courthouse with one of Snooty on Change.org on Sunday night after hearing the news of Snooty’s death. He said he also previously heard someone calling for the Confederate statue to be removed.

“Why not do two birds with one stone?” Pusateri thought.

So far, he’s seen more support than opposition, he said. The petition reached 1,700 signatures as of 4 p.m. Monday, according to the website. Some of the signatures, Pusateri said, have come from as far away as California.

“For a manatee as loved as he was in the community, it’s amazing to see the support,” he said.

Pusateri said when he gets 2,000 signatures, he will submit it for consideration by the city and the county.

“It’s the center of downtown, why not have a symbol of positivity?” Pusateri said. “Something everyone can get behind.”

He noted that he’s not calling for the currently standing Confederate monument to be destroyed, rather moved and replaced with one in honor of Snooty, Bradenton’s official mascot.

But Pusateri isn’t the only one with an idea for a petition. A friend of his also created a Change.org petition to rename Lakewood Ranch in honor of Snooty. Another petition to name a new high school in Parrish after Snooty also appeared on the website after Snooty’s death. The school district collected name suggestions for the new school from March 9 to April 12.

Businesses along Manatee Avenue have noted Snooty’s passing and how much he will be missed on their signs.

Items like flowers, cards, drawings from children, lettuce, carrots and a candle were left near the front door of the South Florida Museum on Monday by those who stopped by to honor Snooty.

Rodgers said a memorial service is being planned and hopes to release details in the coming days. He also said officials will work diligently on creating a memorial to Snooty on museum grounds. The museum will look for public input as that process moves forward.

Herald reporter Mark Young contributed to this report.

Sara Nealeigh: 941-745-7081, @saranealeigh