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Jacksonville lawsuit argues spending tax money on Confederate statues violates Constitution

Jacksonville lawsuit argues spending tax money on Confederate statues violates Constitution
Jacksonville lawsuit argues spending tax money on Confederate statues violates Constitution

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a year after a Confederate statue was removed from the now James Weldon Johnson Park, a Jacksonville man has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Lenny Curry and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over other statues that are still standing.

Earl Johnson, founder of takeitdownnow.org, filed the suit. The nonprofit says its goal is to remove every Confederate monument, memorial and tribute from public land in the country.

In the nine-page lawsuit filed Thursday morning, Johnson draws attention to what he calls inaction after Curry called for the removal of Confederate statues in the city.

The suit reads in part:

“Since the proclamation, however, the Mayor has failed and refused to remove Confederate tributes from public land and the imposing Florida Confederate Soldiers Memorial pedestal remains at the town center square, along with the other Confederate homages throughout the City. Likewise, the Governor has clearly expressed support for maintaining public funding for tributes to the Confederacy.”

The suit argues that spending taxpayer money on the monuments violates the 13th and 14th Amendments. It states:

“Defendants’ enactment of general budgetary allocations inuring to the presence, maintenance, preservation and protection of monuments or tributes to the Confederacy located on public land, through public funding under color of law, amounts to an intentional governmental endorsement of White supremacy and the ideology that Black Americans are inferior and subhuman, violating Plaintiff’s 13th and 14th Amendment protections.”

In Springfield Park -- formerly known as Confederate Park -- lies one of the statues, covered in tarp and rope. Underneath it is Florida’s tribute to the women of the Confederacy.

In Old City Cemetery still stands a Confederate gazebo.

Gazebo in Old City Cemetery on July 22, 2021.

“I am a Black person. I am a person of direct descendent of Africans held in bondage, enslaved in Confederate states,” Johnson said. “I also pay local and state taxes to the extent my tax dollars are going to the benefit of these Confederate monuments on public land.

“Not only is it a slap in the face, but it is a perpetuation of government endorsement of white supremacy, and I am asking the court to put an end to it, finally.”

When asked what his message was to the mayor or governor, Johnson responded: “I would ask the mayor and the governor to join our lawsuit, to join our side, to get on the right side of history.”

A statement from DeSantis’ office reads:

“The Governor’s Office has not been served nor received a copy of the complaint. Once received, the Governor’s Office will review and respond appropriately in court.”

A spokesperson for Curry’s office said they do not comment on pending litigation.

About the Author:

An Emmy-nominated TV reporter and weekend anchor.