Filed under: Action, Analysis, Anti-fascist, Southeast, White Supremacy
What follows is an incomplete accounting of the lead-up and current state of the Confederate domino effect in Florida. In order to save space, we’re going to provide links that describe these situations more fully.
In many cities in Florida, anti-racist activists have spent years or even decades struggling to roll back Confederate symbols in public spaces. Since Charlottesville, these campaigns have accelerated. But even more significantly, Florida monuments that had not seen a great deal of resistance in the past have fallen almost overnight. At least 7 Confederate monuments have been removed in Florida since May, most of them just in the past 2 weeks.
In the meantime, “Confederate Monument supporters” including white supremacists, militia groups, and “FOAK” wanna-bes have been putting on quite on act; taking turns condemning or whitewashing the racial terror in Charlottesville while rushing to stage similarly-minded actions to defend monuments across the state. Many, if not most of these actions, have ranged from ineffective to downright counter-productive when it comes to actually protecting these monuments.
The 93 year old statue that sits next to Manatee County Historic Courthouse has attracted a little bit of attention of the years. But following Charlottesville, anti-racist activists in SW Florida quickly mobilized to demand its removal. On August 22st, a large demonstration took place, and organizers declared that they would rally every Monday until the monument was taken down. Counter-protesters also mobilized, including well known provocateur Gary Snow, who was arrested for burning an antifa-flag! Other “alt right” bastards from various parts of Florida were also spotted.The day after the protest, the Commission agreed to remove the statue, without even deciding where it would go. It was removed Wednesday night, August 24th, and quickly broke into pieces. (Photo: Alt-right provocateurs in Bradenton, including members of League of the South, one of the groups which attended Unite the Right, 8.21.2017.)
Hernando County is sometimes referred to as the “old lynching capital of Florida.” There was a recent stir about the monument at Hernando County Courthouse in Brooksville. Essentially a local anti-racist made a Facebook post asking if anyone was interested in campaigning to take it down and right-wing outrage artists fabricated an entire fake “alt-left” protest that was to take place Friday, August 18th. Many counter-protesters appeared, and the next week, local politicians decided to erect a 6 foot fence around the monument to protect it from this phantom menace. If you don’t believe us, you can read all about it here.
The week after Charlottesville, the Mayor of Daytona Beach said plaques honoring Confederate soldiers in the City should be removed. They were taken down less than a day later, on August 17th.
The Lee County Chapter of the NAACP has been calling for the removal of the Robert E. Lee bust in downtown Ft Myers, and the removal of symbols of the Confederacy throughout Lee County. Tall order.
Gainesville is one of several larger cities where organizing and protests over monuments have gone on for awhile now, part of post-Charleston Massacre waves of anti-Confederate organizing. After years of quagmire, “Old Joe” didn’t make it 2 days post-Charlottesville, and was taken down on Monday, August 14th. (Photo: Old Joe removed in Gainesville 8.14.2017.)
University of Florida in Gainesville also recently drew attention for booking National Policy Institute’s Richard Spencer. The invite did not last long after Charlottesville.
Gainesville-area members of League of the South were also involved in violent attacks in Charlottesville, leading to increased scrutiny of the group.
Street signs in Hollywood were vandalized twice in 2015 following the Charleston Massacre. Since then, anti-racist activists have struggled to convince the City of Hollywood to rename these streets. Activists and Hollywood residents frequently came to Hollywood functions decrying the street signs, with limited opposition from pro-Confederate reactionaries. On July 21st, 2017, large competing groups convened to protest the City, and the street signs took up the majority of the City Commissioner’s time. Commissioners agreed that they should take action to change the signs, and set a final vote for Wednesday, August 30th. However, the hate and bigotry that was self-evident at the counter-protests set a political backlash in motion in Broward, well before the events of Charlottesville, as politicians like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Broward Sheriff Scott Israel issued statements condemning the street signs. (Photo: Hollywood Hate Rally, 7.21.2017.)
A South Florida neo-Nazi participant in the Charlottesville hate rally also appeared on tv for a rather remarkable expose of themselves.
Jacksonville has a number of monuments in Hemming Park and elsewhere; it perhaps has more Confederate monuments than any other municipality in Florida. Debate over these statues has gone on for some time already, and has organized groups on both sides. Save Southern Heritage as well as alt-right wannabes have provided frequent opposition here as well. As of the last Jacksonville City Commission meeting August 22nd, hundreds came to argue for both sides, but the Commission has not decided on a final course of action.
The sign to Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School was also vandalized days later.
Lakeland City Commission discussed removing its Confederate Monument in Munn Park in 2015, to no avail. After Charlotesville, fear that the Monument would be vandalized thanks to an “Anonymous” video prompted locals to turn out to “protect” it. Commissioners claim they’re going to have more “discussion” in the future about this issue.
Orlando’s “Johnny Reb” statue in Lake Eola Park was voted down in May and taken away in early July. Seen in hindsight, it was a pre-cursor of things to come.
White supremacists such as Augustus Invictus, and Confederate groups like “Save Southern Heritage Florida,” attempted to rally around the cause, only to find that local anti-racist activists had spent years swaying the City Commission, and that they were powerless to stop it. Augustus was joined by neo-Confederates and Identity Evropa in a rally shortly afterwards the vote. Despite many grand pronouncements about this injustice, further actions by monument supporters or neo-Nazis in Orlando have failed to materialize. Johnny Reb is expected to re-appear in a cemetery in a couple months. (Photo: Neo-Nazis rally in Orlando 5.27.2017.)
The Lee Square monument in downtown Pensacola was vandalized in 2015 after the Charleston Massacre. The large site is again seeing a heated debate since Charlottesville. As recently as Saturday, August 26th, hundreds of people turned out to demonstrate for and against the monument, some scuffles were seen. Response from City officials has been muted so far. (Photo: Rally in front of Lee Square in Pensacola, 8.26.2017.)
Activists and NAACP members have been calling for the removal of 2 Confederate monuments in St Augustine for most of the summer. The issue is set for debate at City Commission for Monday, August 28th.
The Mayor of St. Pete removed an obscure plaque from the downtown waterfront immediately after the weekend of Charlotesville. Other larger monuments in the area remain.
In the state’s capital, the struggle around the Confederate monument at the Old State Capital building seems to mostly be taken up by politicians. The NAACP has also joined with Democrats like Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum to create legislation to force Rick Scott to take down all symbols of the Confederacy in the state.
A heated exchange about the fate of the monument “Memoria en Aeterna,” has been going on in Tampa for some time now. The Confederate monument which has sat in downtown Tampa for just over a century, is currently boxed up and awaiting removal. It certainly did not go down without a fight. It didn’t look like it was going anywhere until several City Commissioners reversed their decision on keeping the monument on July 19th.
Backlash from reactionaries was noteworthy. Confederate rights group “Save Southern Heritage Florida,” created a “study” that doxxed personal information on everyone who spoke at the July 19th Commission meeting. Commissioners and other people that have spoken against the monument have also reported having their car tires slashed as well as death threats.
Perhaps within a day of the Charlottesville conflict, the monument at the base of the notorious I-95 Confederate flag was covered with red paint. Then, days later, in a strange twist, Tampa announced that it would not remove the status unless private citizens contributed $140,000 to its removal.With 24 hours, rich Tampa Bay residents and the Tampa Chamber of Commerce had more than covered that bill. “Memoria en Aeterna” was boxed up within 24 hours, and awaits transport to a private site in Brandon. (Photo: Tampa Memorial being boxed up, 8.17.2017.)
There has also been attempts to rename a Tampa area school named after Robert E. Lee, but no conclusion so far. (Photo: Tampa memorial vandalized 8.14.2017.)
West Palm Beach
A little-known monument in a public cemetery in WPB was vandalized the weekend of August 19th. On the next Monday, WPB Commissioners immediately moved to have it taken down, and it was gone from Woodlawn Cemetery by Tuesday night.