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Hillsborough Democrats blast Confederate monument vote as ‘white supremacy, white privilege’

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Two days after Hillsborough County Commissioners made national news by voting to keep a Confederate monument in front of its County Courthouse Annex, the Hillsborough Democratic Party says the commissioners who did so “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Four commissioners, all Republicans, voted to maintain a statue built in 1911 of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse. They also approved Crist’s proposal to add a mural behind the monument, showcasing what Crist called “love and diversity” of the community.

“The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination,” says Ione Townsend, chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee in a statement. “We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history.”

The two lone Democrats on the board — Les Miller and Pat Kemp — as well as Republican Al Higginbotham — voted to remove the monument.

Townsend said the vote to not remove the statue “was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies,” and says “WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.”

That’s easier said than done on a county commission that has been dominated by Republicans for two decades.

White will be running for re-election to his District 4 seat in conservative eastern Hillsborough County, while Murman and Crist will be running for new countywide seats after serving eight years on the board.

Hagan is also running for a new four-year term in District 2, which he previously served on from 2002-2010. He has spent the past six and a half years representing District 5, but intends to return to the north Hillsborough seat next year. He has already collected more than $200,000 in campaign contributions.

Then again, the changing demographics of the district in terms of a larger Latino population saw the county go further left in the 2016 election. Although Hillsborough has maintained a reputation for being one of the ultimate swing districts in the country during the presidential votes, the county went for Hillary Clinton by more than six percentage points last year, while the entire state went for Donald Trump.

Kemp easily won in the only countywide election, and Democrat Andrew Warren pulled off a major upset by defeating 16-year-GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the race for State Attorney.

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a statement clarifying that it was Hillsborough County, and not Tampa, that made the controversial vote.

The statement was akin to what happened in 2005, when then-Mayor Pam Iorio announced that “gays and lesbians are part of our diversity and deserve our respect,” days after the Board voted to ban “Gay Pride” events.

As of late Friday, two of the four GOP commissioners responded to Townsend’s statement.

“I really have no response to this,” responded White. “My remarks from the meeting this past Wednesday really speak for themselves and basically rebut everything in the DEC’s statement.”

Victor Crist said he was “shocked” by what he called “hypocritical” remarks, since he said it was the Democratic Party who supported the monument from the beginning.

“Over the last 65 years that it’s been in its current location, most of those years have been under the Democratic County Commission, and every year that money had to have been appropriated to maintain it, the Democrats voted to do so,” he said. ” So all of a sudden now after 135 years of Democratic support, they’re going to turn around and criticize other people? You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

This is Townsend’s full statement:

Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners who voted on June 21 to leave the Confederate monument up in front of the courthouse should be ashamed of themselves. The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination. We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history. We also call all Democrats and residents of Hillsborough County who support the constitutional rights of all citizens and find the vote on June 21 to be unacceptable to CONTACT THESE COMMISSIONERS AND ASK THEM TO RECONSIDER THEIR POSITIONS AND VOTE “YES” on the removal of the Confederate statute.

Let us be clear!! The Civil War was fought over the oppression of the civil and human rights of African Americans. It was NOT a war of states’ rights or northern aggression as it is often referred to in the South even in 2017. The South fought this war to protect the interests of rich white Southerners who depended on slavery to maintain their lifestyle and wealth. After the Civil War the United States of America passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolishing slavery, giving citizenship to former slaves, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law, and voting rights for African American men (women of all races did not get the right to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920).

Jim Crow laws, designed to perpetuate segregation, were passed by southern states and local governments unwilling to abide by these new constitutional amendments in the later part of the 1800s. These laws by were an attempt to circumvent the new rights granted to all Americans. After yet another 100 years of continued suppression of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Martin Luther King and many civil rights activists, some of whom lost their lives in this cause, worked tirelessly to make this oppression part of our public discourse.

This culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Resistance to equality continues today in the form of new Jim Crow laws being passed by Republican controlled states. New voting rights laws have been passed under the guise of unsubstantiated voter fraud resulting in oppression of voting rights especially in communities of color. Mandatory sentencing even for minor offenses and discriminatory criminal justice practices has a disproportionate effect on people of color, resulting in the filling of for-profit prisons. Is this not another form of discrimination, oppression, and slavery? These actions and sentiments have emboldened militarized police forces to shoot unarmed African American men, women and children.

The vote on June 21, 2017, at the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners to not remove a Confederate Statue from a public space was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies. Symbols of the Confederacy are divisive, painful, racist, and are meant to intimidate a portion of our citizens who, because of white supremacy, have never realized complete freedom in the Land of the Free. A Confederate statue in front of a courthouse is particularly offensive. The vote was shameful and was the result of people working to perpetuate this abomination of racist thought and action on our body politic. White Supremacy was on full display at the County Commission meeting. WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.

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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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