MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — In 2017, there was a lot of heated debate surrounding the Confederate monument sitting outside the historic courthouse.
Amid passionate protests in downtown Bradenton, commissioners at the time voted to have the monument relocated, but during the removal process, it toppled over and broke into three pieces. It’s been in storage and out of the public eye since, but that may change in 2023 under a new board of county commissioners.
During a work session last week, some citizens told commissioners they would like to see the monument repaired and brought out of storage.
“I am here to ask you to think about, as you begin your planning for 2023, to rectify what I think was a mistake,” said one resident during public comment. “I think it is our opportunity now to right a wrong. I think it is our opportunity to bring back a part of our history, that is a crucial part of Manatee County history,” he continued.
Commissioners then had a brief discussion about the statue which memorialized Confederate soldiers.
“The board unanimously agreed that the monument should never have been taken down in the first place,” said Commission Chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge. “There was some dissent over what to do now, and we agreed that it would be placed on a future agenda for discussion for us to talk about what we should do with the monument moving forward,” he continued.
“You hear about people taking them down, and I disagree with people taking them down, but you never hear about them putting them back up,” said Commissioner George Kruse during last week’s meeting.
The issue has not yet been placed on a public agenda, but multiple residents spoke about the issue during public comment at the commission’s regular meeting Tuesday. Some describe the monument as a symbol of history, while others feel it is a symbol of hate.
“To be honest with you, it should have never have been removed. It is part of our history, it is part of our heritage, and this whole country at one time has a horrible history. I think it is there so it won’t repeat itself, but I don’t believe that that particular statue had anything to do with why what was brought down,” said county resident Andra Griffin.
“It is a complete and utter slap in the face as a Black woman that lives in this community, said Sarah Parker who is the president of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida.
“There is no reason that people should have to be traumatized when they are walking down the street and seeing a hate symbol,” said Shannon Spring.
If commissioners vote to have the statue removed from storage, the chairman says, because of fragility, the repair will take place in its final resting place.