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Jacksonville, Florida, mayor has Confederate monument removed after years of controversy

Dec 27, 2023, 12:03 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Crews removed a Confederate monument from a Jacksonville, Florida, park Wednesday morning following years of public controversy.

Mayor Donna Deegan ordered the removal of the “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy” monument, which has been in Springfield Park since 1915. She said the decision is not an attempt to erase history but to show that people have learned from it.

“Symbols matter. They tell the world what we stand for and what we aspire to be,” Deegan said in a statement. “By removing the confederate monument from Springfield Park, we signal a belief in our shared humanity. That we are all created equal. The same flesh and bones. The same blood running through our veins. The same heart and soul.”

Serious discussion of the monument’s fate began in 2020 after Deegan’s predecessor, Mayor Lenny Curry, ordered the removal of another monument, a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier that had been in a downtown park for more than 100 years. The move came weeks after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and on the heels of marches and other calls for social justice.

A proposal to remove the Confederate women tribute was introduced to the Jacksonville City Council in 2021, but the Republican-controlled board never moved on it. Earlier this month, Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel determined that city council approval was unnecessary because city funds were not being used for the work. As the city’s top executive, Deegan, a Democrat, had the authority to order the statue’s removal, city attorneys said. The $187,000 bill is being covered by a grant that the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and anonymous donors made to 904WARD, city officials said.

Florida Rep. Dean Black, who is chair of the Republican Party of Duval County, posted on social media that the monument’s removal was a stunning abuse of power.

“This action, undertaken in the middle of the night, during the holidays, without consultation of city leaders or a vote by the council, is another in a long line of woke Democrats obsession with Cancel Culture and tearing down history,” Black said.

The monument will remain in city storage until members of the community and the city council can determine what to do with it, officials said.

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