JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a protest over a controversial Confederate monument forced a brief halt to a Jacksonville City Council committee Tuesday morning. When it resumed, the Finance Committee voted 4-3 against an ordinance to spend $1.3 million to remove the monument from a city park.
It was the third committee to two days to vote against moving the “Women of the Southern Confederacy” monument out of Springfield Park.
The Neighborhoods Committee voted 4-1 Monday morning and the Transportation Committee defeated the bill by a vote of 4-2 a few hours later.
The only votes for the bill so far have come from Council members Matt Carlucci, Reggie Gaffney, Joyce Morgan and Ju’Coby Pittman. Because the spending was not included in the city’s approved 2021-22 budget, the measure would need at least 13 votes when it goes to a full City County vote, scheduled for next Tuesday.
The latest vote came after activists chanting, “Take ‘em down; take ‘em down,” interrupted the meeting. Police were called and the room was temporarily cleared. The protestors were allowed to return at the very end of the meeting to make public comments.
We tried talking to the Finance Committee Chairman Ron Salem, but he said he didn’t want to comment and walked away.
Gaffney did comment, telling News4Jax that leaving the controversial monument in place will no doubt draw more protests from the community that was promised by Mayor Lenny Curry last summer that all Confederate symbols would be removed from public property.
Those protests will likely be led by Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition. He has been one of the loudest voices advocating the removal of the monument and was among those cleared from the chamber Tuesday morning.
“We have people leading us backwards. We will not stand for it,” Frazier told the committee during a public comment period. “We will continue to march, rally and demonstrate for racial justice in this city. We will continue to stand. We’re going to let nobody turn us around. We’re going to keep on walking; we’ll keep on talking; moving on to freedom land.”
After Monday’s vote, Councilman Aaron Bowman said this monument is different because it features a woman rather than a Confederate soldier or other aspects of the Civil War.
“Look, the Civil War was absolutely horrible. The fact that we had slavery; the fact that we had to fight over slavery. It (was) a terrible time in our history. Any monument out there that represents support of that, it absolutely has no place anywhere, especially on public property,” Bowman said. “This monument is completely different. It shows the war and the casualty of war to the entire community and the entire family. This is not about the Civil War at all, but it’s how we try to resolve something without conflict.”
If the monument stays in the park, which is looking increasingly likely, the statue inside will remain wrapped to prevent vandalism.
“The wrapping is a measure of security,” Curry’s Chief Administrative Office Brian Hughes told the committee. “As long as there is a credible threat of it being attacked or defaced, the tarp will remain.”
If the monument were to be removed, it could go to private property at the Trout Creek Fish Camp in St. Johns County -- the same place the Confederate monument from St. Augustine was moved last year.
In Memory of the Women of Our Southland Let this mute but eloquent
structure speak to generations
to come, of a generation of
the past. Let it repeat
perpetually the imperishable
story of our women of the 60's.
Those noble women who
sacrificed their all
upon their country's altar. Unto their memory, the Florida Division
of the United Confederate Veterans
affectionately dedicates this monument.