Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Third National Flag of the Confederacy to be removed from Hillsborough County Center

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by
The Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously this afternoon to remove the Third National Flag of the Confederacy from the County Center in downtown Tampa today, 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 American flag also hangs in the lobby.

The motion to do so came from County Commissioner Les Miller, the only black member of the board. After the unanimous vote to remove the flag was official, the 63-year-old lawmaker briefly broke down in tears.

The flags will now move to the Tampa Bay History Center for display.

The revived divisiveness around the Confederate flag has been a huge story across the country in the past month, and the divided politics of the symbolism of that flag came to Tampa today at the Board of County Commission meeting. It was the board’s first meeting since the racist killings last month in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Roof, 21, charged with nine counts of murder, was pictured holding the Confederate flag prior to the killings.

The board rejected two substitute proposals by Eastern Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White. His first compromise was that the flags would be taken down and replaced by the seals of the flags. Though Commissioner Victor Crist seconded the proposal to conduct a discussion, it failed to gain support.

Neither did his request to have the measure go before the public in a referendum next year. “I’m not sure that each member of this board will vote his conviction on this sensitive issue,” he said. “This is the people’s building, and the people should have the opportunity” to weigh in, he said.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham took exception to that comment, saying to suggest that he wouldn’t vote with his heart on the intense issue was “dangerous.” He said White’s proposal about the seals being placed in the County Center was of interest, but “your timing is wrong,” he said.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner said that while the flag represents different things to different people, it definitely represents division, and said it should go in the history museum.

Instead of fighting the inevitable, White admitted that he had been outvoted. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes,” he said philosophically.

His magnanimity on the issue impressed his colleagues, with Commission chair Sandy Murman saying that his stance was that of a great statesman.

During the first part of the public discussion, the speakers were racially divided, with all of the white speakers supporting the flag continuing to fly inside the county center, and every black member arguing for its removal. That later changed, with several white speakers advocating for the flag’s removal.

Eastern Hillsborough activist George Nieman called for the flag to continue to fly, saying it would be a “political decision to move them.”
Ann Barons said she was a proud descendent of many Floridians, and said Commissioner White was correct in worrying if it’s the Confederate flag that’s unpopular today, what will it be tomorrow? “We can’t change history. If we hide any part of the state’s history, we might as well hide all of it. Florida.”
“Don’t mess with our history,” warned Carollwood resident Phil Walters, who called it a “non-issue.””We need to solve our problems, not create new ones.” He said that the fact that America had gone from putting blacks in slavery to a black man being elected president of the United States shows the greatness of the country.
Eddie Adams Jr., a former GOP congressional candidate, blasted supporters of the flag, saying that the time they should have been defending the flag is when skinheads and racists began adopting the flag as their own symbol. The South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds after the deaths of nine blacks in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.
County Commission candidate Brian Willis said the flag was a symbol of inequality to people, and said it causes some people in the community to question whether they’ll receive equal treatment by county officials.
Though that issue is now history, Tampa and Hillsborough County have to contend with the fact that a huge Confederate Flag greets motorists driving to Tampa at the I-4/I-75 junction. However, that flag resides on private property, outside of the commissioners’ influence.
As a bit of a history lesson, Commissioner Ken Hagan referenced how that happened in 2007. That’s when commissioners opposed recognizing Southern Heritage Month. Members of the group said they would respond, and did so the next year, unveiling the huge flag, where it has flown ever since.

Comments

comments

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.

Latest from The Bay and the 'Burg

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Go to Top