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Save Southern Heritage files legal memo to stop Hillsborough Confederate monument move

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A group hoping to stop Hillsborough County from moving a Confederate monument from Tampa to a Brandon cemetery is attempting to prove legal standing in a challenge to the statue’s removal.

Save Southern Heritage, Veterans’ Monument of America and five other individuals filed a 45-page memorandum Monday to Hillsborough Circuit Judge Rex Barbas.

The memo seeks a temporary and permanent injunction the day after the county confirmed it had received $140,000 in private funds that they demanded earlier this month must be raised to move the statue.

The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners voted August 16 that the monument would remain in front of a county courthouse annex unless approximately half the costs of removing the statue could be raised within 30 days. That money was raised the next day, affirming the board’s vote on July 19 to move it to the Brandon Family Cemetery.

Plaintiffs argue that the decision to remove the monument hurts them more than the general public: “Because the motion’s prohibition against placing the Civil War Memorial on all County government land will harm their ability to conduct their mission of historical preservation by inhibiting their ability to preserve this Civil War Memorial and potentially of the artifacts due to the chilling effect of this prohibitive motion.”

Save Southern Heritage and Veterans’ Monument of America say that if the monument moves to the Brandon cemetery, they will be required to spend “significant time and money” to ensure that the memorial is not stolen or vandalized.

The county intends to move the statue into storage for an interim period before the Brandon Family Cemetary is prepared for its implementation. The plaintiffs argue that will enhance the chances that the statue will be damaged, and they want it to remain in front of the courthouse annex until the Brandon cemetery says they’re ready to receive the

They also argue that they will “suffer psychological distress from having a cenotaph to their ancestors removed,” and that the mission of their organizations would be “adversely affected.”

Another argument made by Save Southern Heritage is that the county did not follow their normal bidding procedures, and by voting to remove the statue within 60 days it prevented them from being able to “reasonably comply’ with those bidding procedures.

Similar monuments have been moved by local governments throughout Florida and the Southeast this year, though the momentum to begin removing them began in earnest in the summer of 2015, after the killings of nine blacks in a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C. by Dylann Roof, where a picture of him holding the Confederate flag before the killings was later revealed. That prompted the South Carolina government to remove the Confederate flag from their state capitol building.

Weeks later, the Hillsborough County Commission voted to remove the Third National Flag of the Confederacy from the County Center in downtown Tampa along with the flags of the other countries that also hang in the lobby that used to occupy Florida: Spain, France, and Great Britain.

The removal of Confederate monuments has taken on greater national significance following the violence that transpired in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, sparked by white nationalists who opposed the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Barbas has given the county three days to respond to the plaintiffs’ memorandum of law before him taking any action.

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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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