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Gainesville removes Confederate statue, Tampa statue vandalized

Statue being returned to local chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Crews on Monday removed one Confederate statue in a Florida city and authorities said someone had splashed red paint around a Confederate memorial in another city.

Sounds of a jackhammer echoed in downtown Gainesville as workers tore out the foundation of the statue known as "Old Joe" after local authorities decided to move it from outside the Alachua County Administration Building. The statue was put on a truck and hauled away.

"It's a constant reminder of an oppressive history and it's a constant reminder of what minority groups had to go through," said Bradley Wyrosdick, a Gainesville resident. 

The statue's removal had been in the works for months after protests and several failed attempts to relocate it. It was unclear if the work was hastened by violent protests surrounding the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

"It was past time for it to come down. I'm glad it has come down. I don't think we should be celebrating this oppressive history we've had," said Nikolette Lipsey, a student at the University of Florida. "It's a part of history, but the statue is a celebration of that history and I think that's different."

News4Jax spoke with Gainesville residents and UF students said they were happy to see the statue taken down, saying it symbolized racism and hate.

"It's too divisive of a symbol," Debbie Scheuer, a Gainesville resident, said. "I don't think you can have unity with symbols like that."

The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected it in 1904. County spokesman Mark Sexton said officials do not know where the statue will go.

"The history is still there and I think that in removing it, we're actually remembering the history and the damage that's been done," said Billy Huff, a Gainesville resident. 

News4Jax searched the streets to find someone who didn't support the statue coming down, but couldn't find that person. 

In Tampa, a passer-by called 911 after seeing that paint had been tossed on and around the Confederate memorial's columns and derogatory comments were scrawled in paint, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said in a news release. The site is on private property near Tampa on Florida's west coast.

Other Confederate memorials in the area have been targeted as well.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted on July 19 to remove a different monument in the county, this one in downtown Tampa and on county property, after several heated meetings filled with public discussion.

On Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to discuss the monument again with an update on the relocation.

In Jacksonville, City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche on Monday also called for removal of all Confederate monuments from public places in the city.

"In response to the horrific and unacceptable incidents that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am asking that the city ... conduct an inventory of all Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property," she wrote in a news release.

The attention focused on Florida's Confederate monuments comes as similar debates heat up in other states. Tension flared into violence this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white nationalist rally that was tied to a protest against the removal of a Confederate statue there.

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