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Tampa Bay History Center says it won’t house Confederate statue

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

If Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller ultimately proves successful in persuading his fellow board members to remove a Confederate statue from the front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse later this month, the monument will not be housed at the Tampa Bay History Center.

“The history center will not be accepting the monument,” museum spokesman Manny Leto said Friday afternoon, claiming a lack of space for the structure.

Miller says the Confederate Soldier’s Monument which sits in front of the courthouse is divisive, and it’s time to have it removed from in front of the courthouse. He’s intending on bringing a measure up at the June 21 Commission meeting calling for the removal of the statue.

However, a county ordinance dictates that such a monument needs to go to a nonprofit organization. Miller said last week that if the History Center said no, he would reach out to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization that donated the monument to the county in 1911.

Miller’s upcoming proposal is part of a movement happening throughout much of the South, with local governments voting to remove statues and memorials to the Confederacy. Most notably has been the situation in New Orleans, where city officials recently removed four Confederate monuments.

Two years ago, Hillsborough Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal brought forward by Miller to move the Third National Flag of the Confederacy (along with the flags of the other countries that also hang in the lobby that used to occupy Florida: Spain, France, and Great Britain). That action occurred at the board’s first meeting after the murder of nine people in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The assailant, Dylann Roof, was pictured holding the Confederate flag before the killings.

The Tampa Bay History Center agreed to accept the flags in 2015.

That won’t be the case this time around.

“There are some issues regarding the physical challenges of putting sometime like that in the history center,” said Leto.

When asked if that was the only factor in opting not to agree to Miller’s request, Leto said simply: “It was an issue that precludes us from being involved.”

Two years ago, Commissioner Stacy White initially opposed the proposal to remove the Third National Flag of the Confederacy from the county center, before acquiescing with the rest of the board to support the move. He won’t do so this time around.

When asked if that meant filling his own ordinance that would prohibit the removal of historic Confederate monuments in Hillsborough County, White said on Friday in an email that he will “consider” such a proposal.

Some county governments in Florida have passed similar ordinances, and the state of Alabama last month passed a bill that bars the removal, renaming, removal and alteration of monuments, memorial streets, memorial buildings and architecturally significant buildings located on public property for 40 or more years.

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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