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Confederate monument supporters in Tampa mourn its upcoming removal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

On Saturday morning, supporters of the Confederate monument in Tampa that is now slated to be moved to a cemetery in Brandon held a vigil to mourn its removal.  

Shortly before 10 a.m., a group of about 20 people gathered at Joe Chillura Square Park, which is across the street from the controversial monument. Then, they walked across the street onto Pierce Street, where Lunelle McCallister placed a wreath titled “1911-2017” on a shrub in front of the statue, which is now completely boxed up.

Members of the group, led by Save Southern Heritage Florida’s David McCallister, have been attempting to stave off a move led by County Commissioner Les Miller to remove the statue, called “Memoria en Aeterna,” from outside the old county courthouse in downtown Tampa.

After initially voting in June to keep the monument in place, the board reversed itself in July, voting to move the memorial, dependent upon getting substantial private funding to relocate it. Later, this past week, a majority on the board voted that unless $140,000 in private funds were raised within 30 days, the statue would remain.

That money came through less than 24 hours later, with plans to move it to the Brandon Family Cemetery staying on course.

“It’s important that we remember that just because they have a box around this monument, this fight’s not over,” said Donny McCurry of Riverview said Saturday. “We have to make sure that this monument, if it has to be moved, has to be moved in a manner that it has to be put back together. We don’t want it to be moved in a gravel heap.”

David McCallister read aloud from a news release issued earlier this week by Thos V. Strain Jr, the commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) after the violence that erupted in Charlottesville last Saturday, which originated as a protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

“There is no place for violence and hatred,” McCallister quoted from Strain Jr.’s statement. “The SCV condemns all acts of hatred and the improper use of our ancestors’ battle flag, which they nobly carried into battle for their own political independence.”

“The SCV condemns the ‘alt-left’s’ attempts to attack Confederate monuments and other war memorials in an attempt to tarnish the true history of our great nation and to further their modern socialist political agenda,” he added from Strain Jr.’s statement.

There was also a prayer, a recitation of a few lines from Robert E. Lee’s favorite hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” singing “God Bless America” at its conclusion.

Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County Young Democrats released a statement Friday night condemning a dossier recently released by Save Southern Heritage Florida that includes the names, addresses, phone numbers, affiliations, and other information on activists who spoke out in support of removing the statue during the Board of County Commission’s July meeting.

“Hillsborough County Young Democrats condemn intimidation and thinly veiled threats of this kind,” the statement read. “More than one member of HCYD has been targeted in this way, and we all stand in solidarity with the targeted activists as we defy those who would replace civil discourse with underhanded attempts at bullying.”

That dossier was referenced last Sunday night at a vigil held in Tampa the day after the events in Charlottesville by activist Ashley Green, who is listed in that document.

“This is the kind of quality classiness that you can expect from defenders of monuments of the Confederacy, and you can believe that they’re working hard to foment the same sentiment here in Tampa that was fomented in Charlottesville,” she said.

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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