Confederate monuments and an eclipse of political capital in Jacksonville - Florida Politics

Confederate monuments and an eclipse of political capital in Jacksonville

Last week in Jacksonville politics, it was the Anna Brosche show. She was at the center of every news cycle for a provocative proposal to mothball Confederate monuments.

There are some who would say that, just as Jacksonville was set to experience a solar eclipse Monday afternoon, there was a commensurate eclipse of political capital for the aforementioned Council President, whose streak of almost uniformly laudatory coverage came to a halt when confronted with a seemingly intractable political reality.

Seven days before, Brosche took the most compelling position of her political life. She made the strong case that Jacksonville should conduct an inventory of the city’s Confederate monuments ahead of eventual removal.

“I intend to propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized,” Brosche contended Monday.

Very quickly, the Jacksonville Civic Council backed her play.

Then, momentum slowed — even as the narrative cycle spun on.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was more cautious, saying that he wanted to see what came out of the process before taking a position. Very few Council members seemed enthusiastic about the proposal, with one of Brosche’s political opponents (fellow Republican Bill Gulliford) calling the proposal a “knee-jerk reaction” to the street violence in Charlottesville.

Hate mail came in, as predictable as an afternoon thunderstorm. It was brutal.

“I find your caving-in to nasty commie anarchist hebes and their black jungle-bunny friends to be repulsive,” the emailer wrote.

“You are an Asian!  You don’t belong here. You aren’t from here.  You just can’t cave-in to these sorry people and screw everyone else.  You should not even be on the city council,” the emailer added, saying “liberals and their n*** allies are making you look bad.”

We asked Brosche her thoughts.

“While I’ve received an email with a closing salutation of ‘FU,’ that was the worst email so far. It does not change my position either way,” Brosche said last week.

The position was to change, however.

On Friday, the Jax Chamber backed the call for inventory, but not for removal.

And Brosche, having given those who equate these monuments with the defense of slavery and white-supremacy hope that these monuments would eventually be out of public parks and squares, had already told those same people not to hold their breath waiting for anything to happen.

“We can develop a measured plan of understanding what we have — why it’s there, why it was erected — and be able to develop a very measured response, including understanding private funding, over how many years what’s going to happen, (and) where would they go if they went anywhere,” Brosche told WJXT Thursday.

We asked Brosche about the seeming daylight between her position at the start of the week and the end, and she told us the following: “I asked for an inventory to start a process of understanding what we have to determine next steps. Removal of the monuments remains an option,” Brosche said, “and I’ve received many alternative suggestions for consideration this week.”

By the time Brosche filed her “Sunday’s Lead Letter” to the Florida Times-Union, she had clearly taken those “alternative suggestions” to heart.

The letter: a few hundred words of spackle, one in which Brosche bandied about bromides (“Now is the time for a conversation, one that will be difficult, but one we must have if we are to truly become One City, One Jacksonville”), while avoiding any mention of removal of the monuments.

Indeed, Brosche managed to avoid taking a position at all — a neat trick just days after she took a genuinely iconoclastic position.

“I respect and appreciate the divergent perspectives regarding the Confederate monuments. To some, they are primarily symbols of our heritage and history. To others,” Brosche wrote, “they are primarily symbols of oppression of an entire race.”

Quite a gulf between those two positions. The same held true when those statues were erected; in Jacksonville and elsewhere, Confederate monuments were intended as a visual reinforcement of the Jim Crow social order.

For poor and lower-middle class whites, said monuments were affirmations of their superior position in the caste system of the post-slavery South. And for most African-Americans, those monuments were intended to remind them that the social order hadn’t appreciably changed.

The most controversial Confederate monument in Jacksonville, in Hemming Park, is just a few hundred feet from where the violence of Ax Handle Saturday commenced decades ago. Was that a “heritage not hate” moment? Or was that an outbreak of mob violence designed to reinforce a social order that was every bit as toxic as the polluted ground at the Shipyards nearby?

Brosche still got lit up in the comments for her “Lead Letter.” Her political adversaries sense vulnerability, and will exploit it.

Regardless of — or perhaps because of — Brosche’s position evolution on this matter, Jacksonville City Council public comment Tuesday evening is expected to be lively.

How lively?

Sources tell us that, instead of parking out in front of City Hall Tuesday evening, Council members and staff are being told to park in a garage inside the building.

They are gearing up for one of those marathon public comment events, with Southern partisan types on one side, and the group seeking to tear down the monuments on the other.

Brosche is all but guaranteed to preside over the most rancorous and unproductive public comment period of her presidency, and her allies and frenemies alike will be watching closely to see how she deals with it.

Jacksonville will witness a near-total solar eclipse on Monday. But that’s a temporary phenomenon. Will the eclipse of President Brosche’s political capital in the light of monumental pushback likewise be temporary?

Or is her tenure as Council President mortally wounded?

10 Comments

  1. The cenotaph in Hemming Park is a memorial for the soldiers from Florida who did not make it home from the war. They were either left on the battlefield or buried in mass unmarked graves. It is not about the so called white supremacy or about slavery as so many have said. Put up monuments to famous black citizens from Jacksonville in Hemming Park so it is more diverse. Let the citizens of Jacksonville, vote on this, that way the city council and the mayor can wipe their hands clean of this issue, and say, it is the will of the people. America Builds Monuments we Don’t Tear Them Down.

  2. Her budding political career just hit a speed bump that knocked her car into the bushes. She’s cooked. Dumb move considering an overwhelming majority of Jax residents strongly oppose this blantant attack on Florida and Jax history. Enough is Enough, time to put the Black Lives Matter and the AntiFa radicals back in their can. No one should cater to these misfits, certainly not elected officials. Be aware, very aware of the voters. They will bite on this issue.

    1. You say it is an attack on Florida and Jax history. The history will still be the same after these monuments are moved to a more suitable location. Peoples family history and heritage will be the same. You can’t take that away and would not want to. As far as the Black Lives Matter movement. Have you been treated the same as a black person? Without really talking with people who are being treated differently than you are, you really don’t know the circumstances. Without that information you are making an uninformed judgement; basically an opinion. AntiFa is a loose knit group of people who show up to confront Fascists, Nazis, white supremacists nationalists. Are you against AntiFa because you are for one of the groups they protest against?

  3. These confederate monuments must go. They signify a time when people of color were oppressed and bought and sold like property. Those that fault in the civil war were traitors to america and not heros. Their actions were treasonous and because of such they do not deserve to be immortalized forever. These monuments and the treasonous inhumane behavior they represent needs to be blotted out of our community. Those that support the monuments existence support traitors who committed treason or racists that enslaved people of color. There is nothing more divisive for the community of Jacksonville than the continued display of these troubling monuments.

  4. I have read many posts regarding taking down the statues and changing place names. From what I’ve read and thought about I have reached some conclusions. Racism and prejudice still exist. As long as it exists we as a society should not glorify people who fought to benefit white supremacy. Some may have not been fighting for white supremacy but their efforts would benefit that. As long as their statues and place names hold a place of honor we are glorifying them and their efforts. Relocating statues to a more suitable location is preserving monuments. It is not changing history or heritage. We will always have that history and each of us will always have our heritage. Neither of those will be changed or taken away. I will always work so that there is less racism and less prejudice. EVERYONE deserves an equal opportunity to be all that they can be. Only then will we have justice and peace. The people that bear the brunt of racism and prejudice are the ones that can judge the best as to whether it exists or not and what impacts them. Usually, but not always, the people who are not experiencing it are the ones who are not aware of the extent of what it is like. Just as a side note. I am at least 14 different nationalities and at least two different races. Are you for me or against me having an equal opportunity without racism and prejudice? What are you going to do to make it better for everyone?

    1. The over whelming support from the citizens of Jacksonville, are to keep the memorials to the soldiers of the Confederacy in place, where they are. If the polling results are not convincing in themselves, then, let the registered voters of Jacksonville, Florida, decide if they want the monuments to stay on public property or not. Is not that the most fair way to go about this. When did the minority rule the majority. What America do you live in? If you do not like democracy, then leave, please. LET THE PEOPLE VOTE, LET THE PEOPLE VOTE

      1. You stated a question in your post. “When did the minority rule the majority.” The United States is a republic with democratically elected representatives. In this republic there are built in safeguards for minorities. The majority in certain instances can not pass things even with a majority vote. This may come as a surprise to you but this is our democracy. In the past if the way things work perpetuates and supports racism then things can be changed by the courts. Brown vs Board is a perfect example. There are numerous other instances where the courts and legislation had to be passed to protect certain classes of people regardless of how the majority felt or would vote. Americans with Disabilities Act, Voting rights for women, etc. This is the America I live in, where do you live?

  5. Take them all down,once and for all so we can get onto important stuff like spending a billion tax payer dollars to screw up our River.

  6. Ray Michael, you must not want the voters of Jacksonville, to have a say in this matter do you? And why is that I ask? What are you afraid of? The city council members whose constituents want to keep the monuments in place, better take heed of the poll numbers as well the Mayor, if they relish their political careers in Jacksonville. If the people of Jacksonville, want the monuments gone, so be it. If they want them to stay, they stay. America Builds Monuments, We Don’t Tear Them Down. Put up monuments to famous African Americans from Jacksonville in Hemming Park, to give it more diversity.

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