ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – About two dozen protesters gathered around a Confederate monument in downtown St. Augustine before dawn Friday. Protesters said they were told city crews were about to move the 30-foot stone pillar.
St. Augustine City Manager John Regan told News4Jax that the monument will not be removed Friday, but it will happen in the next two weeks. He also said people passing the area may notice heaving equipment needed to move the monument arriving near the site in the coming days.
For now, the site remains surrounded by fencing and no trespassing signs.
One contractor hired to assist moving the monument 18 miles west to a site being prepared for it at the Trout Creek Fish Camp on State Road 13 said the project will take some time.
“We have to come in and build a steel frame around it to protect it. It’s like a Christmas box. We have to wrap it up for safety,” said Jeremy Patterson of Progressive Construction. “They’re passionate for the monument. We’re passionate to protect it.”
Patterson said his company moved the first black hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, about two weeks ago, which was a very similar situation.
St. Augustine Commissioners voted to move the monument in June after hundreds of residents called for its removal during the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. On Monday, commissioners approved the move to the fish camp property offered by owner Randy Ringhaver, who said he will create a foundation to maintain the monument. He also proposed to construct a building, a park setting with lighting, sidewalks, and seating around the memorial so it could “be visited for generations to come.”
An inscription on the statue reads: “Our Dead. In Memoriam, our Loved Ones Who gave up Their Lives in the service of The Confederate States.”
People protesting removing the pillar argue the monument is a tombstone and a historic landmark.
“All ethnicities fought for that war memorial and it’s equal status of a United States military veteran under the congressional law of 1906. As an American, I’m absolutely disgusted,” Jenna Bernstein said.
A man who said he founded the Revived Tea Party in St. Augustine, said the effort to keep the monument to remain where it is won’t stop just because the commission voted to move it.
“We will be here, probably every day,” Dave Heimbold said. “We’ve been fighting this for three years.”
The monument was erected in 1872 and has been in the Plaza de la Constitucion since 1879. It is the oldest Confederate monument in Florida.
Carla Gomez said she wants an explanation of how is moving this monument affects the way the police conduct business.
“What’s next for me is to go to the commission meeting speak my piece and try to get a petition together for a motion to remove the other statues because let’s make it fair if you’re going to do it you do it across the board, " Gomez said speaking of the foot soldier statute, also in the plaza.
Since the June decision to relocate the monument, there have been protests by both those opposed to its removal and those who want it to be moved and a lawsuit brought by descendants of Confederate soldiers listed inscribed on the monument, the Ladies Memorial Association (the organization that first put up the monument), Sons of Confederate Veterans and Save Southern Heritage Inc. Florida.
Ragan said the focus is on safely and securely removing and relocating the monument and right now nothing is scheduled to take its place at this time other than grass or plants.