Hillsborough commissioners vote 4-2 to remove Confederate statue outside courthouse

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The fate of the 106-year-old Confederate statue standing outside the old Hillsborough County courthouse no longer hangs in the balance.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted 4-2 in favor of relocating the statue, which has been at the center of controversy in recent weeks.

During a public comment portion of Wednesday’s hearing, many speakers said they favored moving it. They said the statue represents divisiveness and an era of bondage of African-American people.

“This doesn’t reflect our values,” said Ed Narain, a Democratic state representative from Tampa.

“The failure to remove this monument basically signals that we haven’t escaped the past.”

About 115 people spoke at the meeting, with the majority favoring relocation.

“Unlike that monument, history is not set in stone. Our perspectives change with time. I think we can all agree that monument does not unify us. It divides us,” said former County Commissioner Pat Frank who now serves as the County Clerk of Court.

Many people held up signs at the meeting. One man was dressed in a Confederate Uniform.

Attorney Justin Waters told commissioners he is in favor of keeping the memorial where it is.

“The monument was not put up to glorify slavery or racial discrimination. No reasonable person would think that a monument of an injured soldier is meant to be intimidating. The monument does not glorify the Confederate cause, rather it humanizes the human suffering,” said Waters.

Just last month commissioners voted 4-3 to leave it in place, but after public outcry, some of them seem to have changed their tune.

Commissioner Sandy Murman, who changed her vote, said for her, the central issue was always about the cost of moving the monument.

“I did not want county tax dollars to go to the relocation of this monument,” she said during Wednesday’s hearing.

Murman said a meeting with Tampa attorney Tom Skarritt convinced her to change her mind on moving the memorial.

Skarritt offered to donate some of his own money and to raise other funds to pay for moving the memorial. Skarritt told the commission that he believes the memorial should not stand outside of the county courthouse annex, but he doesn’t want to see it destroyed either.

The monument sits in front of a county building that contains administrative offices and traffic court. Facing north, the statue depicts a proud and young Confederate soldier, while facing south, a battered and weary soldier in tattered clothing plods along.

The debate over this monument has gone on for months, with proponents and opponents giving impassioned speeches during several meetings. Commissioners report receiving numerous emails from around the country on the topic. One commissioner, Al Higginbotham, said Wednesday that he’s received death threats and has been called a “traitor” in some emails for voting to move the monument.

The statue will move to the Brandon Family Cemetery, where four Confederate veterans are buried.

The statue’s removal could cost up to $130,000, but we still don’t know who will pay for it. A Tampa lawyer has volunteered to cover the expense.

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