LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Lakeland commissioners voted to move a Confederate monument from Munn Park on Monday.
The vote came after several hours of discussion in a city commission meeting, where at least 50 people had signed up to speak.
“This is in the top three of the most divisive issues we’ve ever seen,” said Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs.
The monument at the center of the discussion is a statue of a Confederate soldier that has been in Munn Park for more than a century.
Citizens who support keeping the statue say it’s a tribute to veterans, but those who want it removed say it’s sending the wrong message and believe it should be in a cemetery or museum.
Sylvia Blackmon-Roberts is a Lakeland resident and says her mother was a civil rights advocate.
“I had made a conscious decision many years ago, just myself personally, that I would not step foot in Munn Park because of that monument,” she said.
“I think it’s a win-win for the city. It allows us the opportunity to move forward,” Blackmon-Roberts added. “It allows us the opportunity to send a different message in a global way, that we’re a progressive city and we’re willing to move forward and do the right thing.”
Once community input had wrapped up, city commissioners continued the discussion about the future of the statue.
At the end of the meeting, commissioners voted 4-3 to move the monument.
“I’m disappointed. I’m a historian, I started out college as a historian, and I believe in the heritage associated with this,” said Mayor Wiggs, who voted against moving the statue. “I never saw this monument as anything other than a heritage kind of thing. With one caveat, you can’t deny other people’s feelings. So if a majority of people feel differently then I have to respect that.”
City officials will now go through the process of finding potential locations to move the monument. They must also figure out a plan to pay for the monument to be moved.