TAVARES, Fla. (AP) — Opponents of the relocation of a Confederate statue to a Florida county with a fraught racial past are protesting the decision to house the monument at a tax-supported historical museum at a time when cities around the U.S. have been removing Confederate monuments.
Protesters on Saturday planned to march through downtown Tavares, Florida to voice their opposition to bringing the statue to Lake County.
Lake County Commissioners last month endorsed moving the statue of Edmund Kirby Smith to the Lake County Historical Society.
The statue of the Confederate general has been in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. But it was set to become homeless next year since Florida lawmakers requested that it be replaced with one of Mary McLeod Bethune. The new statute of the African American educator and civil rights advocate will be moved to the National Statuary Hall in 2020.
As the landlord of the Lake County Historical Society, county commissioners had the authority to reject the request for the Confederate statue by the Lake County Historical Society but endorsed it on a 3-2 vote.
Opponent Evelyn Turner told commissioners the general has almost no connection to Lake County.
“Bringing the statue will do nothing but rekindle the ‘old stuff’ and you know what I mean by the ‘old stuff,'” Turner said.
The ‘old stuff’ is Lake County’s troubled racial history. Lake County was home to the Groveland Four, the African American men accused of raping a white woman in a 1949 case now seen as a one of Florida’s most egregious miscarriages of justice. Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s three-member Cabinet granted posthumous pardons to the Groveland Four.
Commissioner Josh Blake said at last month’s hearing that the statue was a part of history and the commission shouldn’t censor the museum.