Lakeland is latest battleground over Confederate monuments


Lakeland city commissioners will host a public forum to help decide the fate of a Confederate statue in Munn Park.

City Commissioner Don Selvage told his colleagues last month that the statue’s status is something that must be made by them and not kicked down the road to future commissioners.

Debates about what do so with such Confederate memorials have been highly contentious, with the worst incident taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. That’s when protests of a white nationalist rally in support of maintaining a statue memorizing Robert E. Lee led to violence leaving one person dead and dozens injured.

In Hillsborough County, commissioners spent more than two months debating whether to remove a 106-year-old Confederate statue in front of a county courthouse annex in Tampa. The statue was ultimately moved.

Amid those debates, the Lakeland commission has rejected calls to both move the Munn Park monument AND to make it harder to remove memorials.

The pro-Confederate advocacy group Save Southern Heritage Florida held a news conference Thursday, where they touted the results of a new poll that shows overwhelming opposition to removing the War Memorial.

The survey from Gravis Marketing of 442 voters living in Lakeland shows that 86 percent of those surveyed opposed removing the monument, with 14 percent supporting a move. The survey was paid for by Save Southern Heritage Florida.

The breakdown by party was 49 percent Republicans, 29 percent Democrats and 22 percent independent.

Polls conducted in Hillsborough County and in other Southern jurisdictions have shown similar results.

One question in the survey asks,” If Mayor Bill Mutz is successful in removing the Munn Park memorial without a vote of the people, would you be more or less likely to support him in the next election?”

And while 82 percent say they would not support him in the next election, Mutz is in fact not the current mayor — Howard Wiggs is. Mutz is one of four candidates running for mayor next week.

The effort to remove Confederate monuments began in earnest two years ago after then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of that state’s capitol. Her decision came in the aftermath of Dylann Roof’s murdering of nine black worshippers at the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the day after the shootings, a Facebook picture emerged of him on top of his car bearing a license plate with different versions of the Confederate flag.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • David Bruderly

    November 2, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    There are no monuments in Japan honoring Tojo nor in Germany honoring Hitler or his “lost cause”, the Third Reich. There are, however, several monuments honoring the victims of the wars started by these leaders. Save Southern Heritage and others ignore the fact that the Confederacy started the war by firing on Ft. Sumter, that General Lee and many other officers deserted the US Army and violated their oath to serve the United States of America, they then joined the Confederate Army and rationalized that their “just cause” was the continuation of slavery AND supremacy of States Rights —
    all to be achieved by waging war against the United States of America. Monuments erected in the 19th and 20th Centuries that honor Confederate traitors and the “just cause” of slavery (disguised as States Rights) do NOT comport with 21st Century American values. The solution is to respect history. In the real world, this means that any monument that venerates any leader of the Confederacy or the “lost cause” of the Confederacy should be removed from a place of honor and relegated to museums so that it may be displayed in proper historical context. This is how Japan and Germany remember their tragic role in history.

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