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Not So Fast: Tampa Confederate Statue May Not Be Relocated

Protesters at the statue in July.
Steve Newborn
Protesters at the statue in July.

The Confederate statue at the county courthouse in downtown Tampa may not be moving after all. Hillsborough County Commissioners are now asking the public to pay for it.

Just weeks after the board agreed to relocate the statue to a private cemetery in Brandon, commissioners say it won't happen unless the public raises roughly $140,000 in the next 30 days.

That's the remainder of the cost needed to move the 116-year-old statue.

So far, less than a tenth of that amount has been raised in a Go Fund Me account.

Commissioner Victor Crist referenced an informal survey that shows not all residents support the relocation.

"At least half to two-thirds of the population out there doesn't want it moved," he said. "We have chosen, for whatever reason, not to do a referendum up here. And now we're asking those same people to pay for it? That is not fair."

Commissioners Les Miller and Pat Kemp cast the two "no" votes. Miller said he hopes the public is watching what the commissioners are doing.

Public comments were heated on both sides of the issue.

The Rev. Russell Meyer of New Tampa says removing symbols of intolerance is the only way to heal the nation's wounds.

"History will judge you -- will judge me, will judge all of us -- which side we're on," he told commissioners. "Do we stand for love and hate and a new future, or we always want to look back where our hate came from?"

Speaker Andy Strickland said the people should be allowed to decide the fate of statues in a referendum.

"President Trump said it right last night, when he said where does this end?" he said. "Is Thomas Jefferson next? Is Abraham Lincoln next? Is George Washington next? Should we remove George Washington from that Purple Heart because he was a Southern slave owner?"

Also, commissioners agreed to discuss an ordinanceat their next meeting in September that would ban the future relocation of any public memorial or renaming of public spaces honoring military figures or U.S. Presidents.

Protesters gather at the statue in July
Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
Protesters gather at the statue in July

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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