JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Protesters gathered outside Jacksonville City Hall Tuesday evening and called for the mayor and city council members to quickly take down the city’s last Confederate monument in Springfield Park.
They’re worried about a bill that would threaten local officials with removal from office for taking down monuments filed for the upcoming state legislative session.
“This ridiculous that is threatening the whole situation on it being removed is - Yes it definitely makes it a whole lot more…The clock is ticking,” said Kelly Frazier with the Northside Coalition.
Even if city leaders were to act, it could be all for naught.
“History belongs to all Floridians,” said State Representative Dean Black (R-Yulee), who is sponsoring the monuments bill.
As written, the bill would not only prohibit future monument removal, but it would also require any monument taken down since 2017 to be restored.
Failure to comply would put local governments’ arts and culture funding at risk.
“If the city doesn’t do it, it also gives the state the right to put a monument back up or have one reconstructed on any state property,” said Black.
Not only would Black’s monument bill potentially erase any effort to remove the Confederate monument in Springfield Park, if it’s passed as written, the Confederate obelisk removed from James Weldon Johnson Park this summer would also have to be put back up.
State Representative Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) argued last week after the bill was filed the legislation sends a bad message to Black Floridians, especially those here in Jacksonville who just dealt with the pain of a racist mass shooting this summer.
“This is a dog whistle. A racist dog whistle,” said Nixon.
The bill is not guaranteed to pass however.
Asked about the legislation during a stop in Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon, Governor Ron DeSantis indicated the proposal is not on his radar.
“I’m not familiar with it. So, I would have to take a look at it. I don’t know,” said DeSantis.
Protesters like Frazier hope if the bill does make it to the Governor’s desk, he falls on the side of allowing local communities to make these decisions for themselves.
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“Let us decide, talk to our representatives who we’ve elected make decisions like that and we want the statues gone,” said Frazier.