It has been more than a year since the Confederate war veteran memorial was removed from the Manatee County Courthouse grounds in the middle of the night — and broken in the process — and local organizations and residents rallied Sunday, calling on commissioners to repair the statue and put it back.
Barbara Hemingway, who represents America First-Team Manatee, a group of local supporter of President Donald Trump,, helped organize the event and told the crowd that if residents banded together on the issue, they could make a difference.
“Numbers speak volumes. Let’s tell our commissioners that enough is enough and that we won’t let them continue to disrespect our veterans and the monument placed almost 100 years ago in their honor,” Hemingway said. “Tell them we want it restored back to it’s original home here at the courthouse. We build monuments, we don’t tear them down.”
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In a 4-3 vote in August 2017, the Manatee County Commission approved a motion to remove the memorial, which had been in front of the courthouse since 1924 after it was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and place it in temporary storage while the county sought a possible new home for the monument.
Since then, the monument has sat in a storage facility in three pieces and county staff has talked about the monument being relocated to Ellenton’s Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, which is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
But nothing has been done to get that plan in motion, Hemingway says, which involves a formal application process with the state.
Hemingway said that Chair Priscilla Trace told her the application had been submitted to the FDEP in early August, but when she made a public records request for the document, it didn’t exist.
“This is yet another inaction by our commissioners,” Hemingway said Sunday, “showing their disrespect for our veterans, our monument, and the history and heritage of the citizens of Manatee County.”
However, commissioner Betsy Benac said that the county has been working with state Sen. Bill Galvano’s office to “assemble information necessary for the state to consider the placement of the memorial at the Gamble Plantation.” She also said the process will require public input.
Last year, protesters had threatened one protest a week for six weeks if the county did not take down the monument. Protest organizer Ruth Beltran said the county’s vote to remove the monument would eliminate the need for protests, but only if they kept their word. When she received word of the removal last year, she told the Bradenton Herald they were “very pleased with the quick removal of the symbol of racism, hatred, and white supremacy from the public courthouse in Manatee County.”
But supporters of the monument say that county commissioners were intimidated by the protestors, and made a rash decision by removing the statue that they believe is a vital part of U.S. history.
“Last year the Manatee County Commission caved in to threats and intimidation from radical left groups including Indivisible, Anti-Fa and Black Lives Matter and ordered the immediate removal of the historic memorial which had erected in the memory of local veterans,” Save Southern Heritage spokesman David McCallister said in a release. “We want the memorial restored to its proper place, and we want elected officials to know that we have not forgotten and continue to hold them accountable.”