JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Following hours of public comment and discussion, the Jacksonville City Council voted at its meeting Tuesday evening to withdraw an ordinance to spend $1.3 million to remove a Confederate moment that sits in Springfield Park.
The vote was 12-6.
That vote came after council members first voted during the meeting against postponing the final vote on the legislation, which was introduced by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to have the Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy Monument removed.
Before the council decided to withdraw the bill, demonstrators gathered on the steps of City Hall and then spoke in public comment, asking for the removal of the monument or the postponement of a vote on the bill.
Supporters of keeping the monument also showed up and outnumbered activists opposed to the statue.
Opinions ranged from saying that Jacksonville is still fighting the Civil War, that a “no” vote would stain the city’s reputation forever, and even that council members would perpetuate white supremacy and a racial divide.
On the other side, monument supporters said that $1.3 million is just too much to spend, that the statue honors all women and families, and that it’s time to stop living in the past.
At one point, the City Council president cleared the chamber during the meeting.
Curry reacted on social media to the City Council’s move to withdraw the bill, tweeting: “Tonight the City Council disappointingly denied a step toward real progress in Our City by refusing to vote on the removal of a divisive monument from public land.”
Tonight the City Council disappointingly denied a step toward real progress in Our City by refusing to vote on the removal of a divisive monument from public land.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) November 10, 2021
City Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson also tweeted after the vote, saying legislation to remove the monument may be reintroduced at any time.
monuments may be reintroduced at any time. I don’t support maintenance of Confederate monuments…period. But I didn’t get elected for symbolism, but substantive changes to improve our Jax neighbors’ quality of life & @ajustjaxniw.— B.A.Priestly Jackson (@Priestjax) November 10, 2021
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, three council committees voted last week against paying $1.3 million to have the statue removed.
Two influential local groups, the Jax Chamber and the Jacksonville Civic Council, called on the City Council to either postpone or withdraw a vote on the legislation.
The Northside Coalition, which has been very vocal in the debate, has said in the past that it plans to protest and possibly boycott businesses that don’t support the efforts to remove the monument.
Southern Poverty Law Center Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks issued the following statement on Tuesday’s vote:
“We are disappointed in the Jacksonville City Council’s decision to leave a Confederate statue standing in a public park instead of heeding the will of its community members and the business community. But we are not deterred. In fact, we continue to be encouraged by grassroots groups like the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and Take Em Down Jax, which have vowed to remain resolute in their fight to remove symbols of the Confederacy from public spaces.
“We also commend the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Civic Council, and all Jacksonville leaders that joined the movement to remove a living symbol of white supremacy from Springfield Park.
“This issue will not go away. We encourage the Jacksonville City Council to take a courageous stand going forward.
“The SPLC will continue supporting the advocacy efforts of these groups and concerned community members until the mayor’s 2020 promise comes to fruition. Removing the Confederate statue in Springfield Park and all Confederate symbols scattered across the city of Jacksonville from public view is the only choice.”