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Andrew Warren: Save Southern Heritage dossier ‘creepy,’ but not illegal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Citizens supporting the removal of a Hillsborough County Confederate monument are seeking legal action against a “creepy” dossier containing personal information published by a pro-Confederate group.

On Monday night, the Hillsborough County Democratic Party contacted State Attorney Andrew Warren to decide if there was anything illegal about a document issued earlier this month by Save Southern Heritage Florida. The file held personal information on more than 100 people who spoke out on removing the statue, a group that included elected officials.

To the dismay of some, Warren told the audience the document did not rise to the level of a criminal offense.

Save Southern Heritage supports protecting Confederate monuments. It was the leading organization to initially persuade Hillsborough County Commissioners to vote to keep the 106-year-old Confederate statue in front of the courthouse annex.

The Party is also calling on the Hillsborough Commission to rescind the appointment of Save Southern Heritage’s David McCallister to the county’s diversity council.

“Someone who promotes racism and violence has no place on a council of the county,” they argue.

Thanks to the advocacy of Save Southern Heritage Florida, commissioners opted during a June meeting not to remove the monument. Four weeks later, however, the board reversed its decision after more than 100 members of the public spoke against removing the statue.

That day, the board voted 4-2 to do just that, but only if the private sector picked up costs to move the monument to a Brandon cemetery.

During that meeting, Save Southern Heritage Florida produced its “Take ‘Em Down Speaker Study,” featuring names of each person who spoke in support of moving the statue, along with a screen shot of their appearance before the board. In some cases, there were photos of them taken from social media.

The document also noted if they had contributed to the GoFundMe page created to pay for moving the statue, with affiliations (if any) to an organized group. Another page listed phone numbers, addresses and indicated which ones owned their homes.

The dossier broke down affiliations of virtually everyone who spoke out: Current Democratic Party elected officials; previous Democratic Party elected officials; “failed” Democratic Party officials; Democratic Party Executive Committee members; members of the Hillsborough County Young Democrats; member of the Black Democratic Caucus; “Anti-FA” members; Green Party members; Socialist Democrats; Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) Members; Organize Florida members; members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); so-called “Left wing activists,” which were defined as LGBTQ/Climate change/animal rights/ minimum wage/ hands up don’t shoot/Black Lives Matter; and “Anti-Trump activists,” which were listed as members of the Women’s March, No Borders/Dream Defenders.

The group concluded that the movement to move the statue was a “Democratic Party-led campaign augmented with Marxists-Socialists.” It also noted that most participants had no stake in the issue because they either lived outside of Hillsborough County or were not property owners.

At the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee monthly meeting in Ybor City Monday night, Chair Ione Townsend began by saying that the dossier shook up so many Party members, she had asked Warren to address the audience directly.

While Warren said the file was not illegal per se, he did assure Democrats listed in the report — or knew someone listed – that there are laws in Florida about sending specific threats. If anybody felt threatened, Warren recommended they report it to the police.

“Something like that where it’s a specific message sent to a specific person is different [from] a posting on a website that says, ‘we hate these people, we should take them out,'” Warren said, adding that anyone who had concerns should reach out to local law enforcement.

Some members of the audience didn’t seem satisfied to hear what Warren was saying.

Warren said he understood their anger, pointing out that pictures of his wife and children have been posted online that had nothing to do with his office.

“It sucks. It’s scary, and it’s creepy, and we have taken security precautions,” Warren admitted. “I’m not minimizing the concerns and angst we all feel when this happens.”

To officially register their unhappiness, Townsend said the Party is calling on the Board of County Commission to rescind their recent appointment of McCallister to the board’s diversity council. That controversial appointment came on the same day last week when the board flip-flopped on the monument issue once again, has rankled many in the community.

As a result of McCallister’s appointment, two members of the diversity board resigned.

FloridaPolitics.com spoke with McCallister briefly Monday night to get a reaction to the Democratic Party announcement. He said he had nothing to do with the dossier.

Doug Guetzloe, an Orlando based talk show host and conservative activist and member of Save Southern Heritage, sent a statement on Monday night, adding that McCallister had nothing to do with the document, its research or its dissemination.

“As you know Mr. McAllister heads up a different organization, ‘Save Their Honor,’ which does at times work in conjunction with SSH Florida, but in this case, was not involved,” Guetzloe wrote in an email.

For years, McCallister has come before the County Commission on issues about the Confederacy, always naming himself as a member of Save Southern Heritage.

Guetzloe added that the document was “nothing other than what can be obtained from the public record and readily available information on the internet. Quite frankly, it is simply opposition research that is common at all levels of political involvement.”

Save Southern Heritage continues to stand by the document, saying they are preparing more documents “of a similar nature from every public meeting that’s been held dealing with the issue of Southern heritage.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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