Confederate monument protection bill keeps moving in Senate despite intense debate

confederate monument jacksonville
Defenders of monuments may have recourse against cities that take them down soon.

The South may not rise again after all, but a Senate preemption bill protecting monuments to the Lost Cause of slavery and secession from local decisions to remove them continues to advance in committees along party lines.

And monuments to the Civil War led to some very uncivil words in one committee, with Senators who would vote for it condemning those who came to Tallahassee to cajole them into doing just that, in an interesting look at the divide between at least some Republicans and the politicians they vote for.

SB 1122 would impose penalties up to and including removal from office on local officials who removed those and other historical monuments after July 1, 2024, and the Community Affairs panel was the latest to move the Jonathan Martin measure to “protect local history” forward after a robust discussion.

“It is the intent of the Legislature that the state not allow a historical monument or memorial to be removed, damaged, or destroyed. Accurate history belongs to all Floridians in perpetuity,” the bill contends, adding that “an elected official of a local government acting in his or her official capacity who knowingly and willfully violates this section on or after July 1, 2024, may be subject to suspension or removal from office by the Governor,” the bill reads.

Sanctions include civil penalties and required restitution for monument restoration from the responsible lawmakers’ personal accounts.

“I should be able to see that and not have some City Council that might represent a few thousand people that happens to surround that monument or memorial,” Martin said. “I shouldn’t have them infringing on my right to see Florida history.”

Martin said he feared locals would take down various veterans’ memorials, including to the Korean War, if left unchecked.

After an amendment, the Senate bill would also give standing to any aggrieved party to sue if a monument was “removed, damaged, or destroyed on or after October 1, 2018,” as long as they used the edifice for “remembrance,” a loose term with a wide variety of meanings. The amendment moves the retroactive date up two years.

“No one’s going to go to jail or prison for something that was done when it was legal,” Martin said, noting the retroactive sanction was civil, not criminal.

Supporters of the bill said it was a measure to protect history, while opponents said the bill protected violent and racist cycles of harm of long standing.

One opponent noted the irony of having just spoken in a meeting where Martin presented a bill that would have taken controversial flags out of governmental buildings, yet here he protects what she called “participation trophies for losers.”

Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, in debate, lumped this in with other bills characterized by “incongruity” with one another, after apologizing to a supporter of the bill after a spirited exchange with him.

Pizzo also mocked Martin’s bill language, noting a city can simply “cover one of these statues” as the measure is written.

A supporter from Pensacola blamed his city’s “woke City Council” for removing a Confederate monument, contending that without this bill an “Indian” could push St. Augustine to remove monuments to Spanish people who once controlled the city.

A speaker from Live Oak said the bill was a way to protect “White society” from a “cultural war” imposed on the Confederate statuary.

That comment was a bridge too far even for the Republicans who will help this become law.

Chair Alexis Calatayud asked him to clarify that he actually meant to advocate White supremacy, and he said it was. She went on to condemn the “atrocious” and “despicable” sentiments expressed by him in debate ahead of the inevitable vote to advance the bill, saying she doesn’t believe that’s what the majority of the bill proponents believe.

“The absolute display of White supremacy,” said Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, was “appalling” and should have precluded a vote.

“I ask my fellow Senators not to move this bill along any further,” Berman said.

Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood, the only Black member of the committee, said she was “very hurt” by the “non-American outpouring of conversation” from supporters of the bill. She noted that discussion of true history was dismissed as “critical race theory” and a repudiation of “lived experience.”

“I’m so hurt for somebody to look me right in my face and start yelling at me because I asked a question and accused me of promoting critical race theory,” Osgood said. “It’s so wrong.”

GOP Sen. Jennifer Bradley was up on the bill, but blasted the “vile” and “racist” supporters of the bill.

“You make me want to vote ‘no,'” said the Clay County Republican.

In close, Martin talked about how “good intentions can be completely turned around for political purposes,” lamenting coverage from the “media” as painting him as coming from a family of southern racists.

“The media was appropriating the Confederate flag with my name,” he said was the case after the House version was filed and the sponsor said he would carry it.

Noting he’s from Iowa, he said his interest in the bill was “doing something” in the wake of monuments being “torn down all over our country” in 2020 and 2021.

He said he had no “personal attachment” to figures of the Confederacy, but said without acting now, “American monuments” would be removed. And many of the supporters’ statements “made him sick.”

“I disavow everything you have said. This bill is not about white supremacy, it’s not about southern culture,” Martin said.

Regarding Jacksonville, Martin claimed that the City Council, which is supermajority Republican, sought to remove history and that he wants “the African Americans in Jacksonville to feel a part of history, and it’s not happening” with more statues erected to stand aside the Jim Crow statues that were removed in 2020 and 2023.

“The solution that they’re providing, that the Jacksonville City Council is providing, is tearing down statues of Democrats. Quit it,” he said. “Let’s add to the history. Let’s add to the triumph. Let’s show why so many in Jacksonville are living proof that America works.”

The Senate product is more punitive than Republican Rep. Dean Black’s House version, which saw major changes via a substitute passed by its first committee of reference. The House bill now stipulates the structure must have been displayed for 25 years, with an original expectation of permanent installation.

In a contrast to the original filing, which included a retroactive condition that would seem to be a remedy to Jacksonville’s removal of two Confederate monuments in 2020 and 2023, the current House bill is focused on the future and seems to abandon any hope that the Legislature can compel local officials to reinstall previously removed memorials.

Gov. Ron DeSantis started off Black History Month in the House bill sponsor’s district by voicing his “100%” commitment to keeping the structures up in perpetuity.

“I have not seen the legislation, but I’ve been very clear ever since I’ve been Governor, I do not support taking down monuments in this state,” DeSantis said Thursday in Jacksonville.

The Governor said calls for the removal of “some Civil War general or whatever” have evolved into other forms of historical erasure, such as “taking down Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt and (AbrahamLincoln, taking (GeorgeWashington’s name off schools.”

“You’re already up to, like, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. I mean, you’re going to go on and on there because … if you’re going to apply some type of hyperwoke 21st century test to pass people, you going to run into turbulence with MLK Jr., you’re going to run into turbulence with a lot of people,” he added.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


20 comments

  • Jabroni

    February 6, 2024 at 9:12 pm

    Senator Pizzo pretending like he was going to fight a white supremacist outside was hilarious. Imagine willingly styling your hair that way and thinking anyone is going to believe you fight. Never going to be Governor in anything other than his own fever dreams

    • Dont Say FLA

      February 13, 2024 at 4:18 pm

      People fantasize that actor Trump is a fighter.

      People even Photoshop Trump’s face and hair onto the body of a different actor, Stallone circa 1982, just so they can fantasize about Tub of Lard Trump being a tough guy.

      I LOL every time I see that image. I’ve been seeing it for years, but it’s still hilarious. Every. Single. Time.

  • Michael roberts

    February 6, 2024 at 9:12 pm

    maybe Ron will reintroduce slavery.History can not be erased or we are doomed. I am confused that black history has been obliterated in floriduh yet there is an appetite to preserve the confederacy.Those statues are an embarrassment to the people that were victimized. There has to be a contextual perspective to that period.

    • Dr. Franklin Waters

      February 6, 2024 at 11:06 pm

      “I am confused that black history has been obliterated in floriduh yet there is an appetite to preserve the confederacy.”

      It’s simple. Ron DeSantis and his supporters are racists.
      Every single one of them.

  • KathrynA

    February 6, 2024 at 9:46 pm

    So totally agree with you Michael. I was just watching a show on the early civil rights leaders and how they were treated and some were killed and thinking our students in Florida will never hear the true stories of black history. It’s outrageous and sad!

  • julia

    February 6, 2024 at 10:08 pm

    The speakers on both sides were so incredibly stupid, it made me want to puke. And I’ve never seen a bills sponsor do a worse job of defending his legislation than Martin.

  • Josh Green

    February 6, 2024 at 11:05 pm

    But I thought Conservatives didn’t like participation trophies?

  • Michael K

    February 6, 2024 at 11:14 pm

    It absolutely is 100% about White supremacy. Republicans are not “protecting history.” They are pandering to the White supremacists in their MAGA party then act all shocked when it’s called out by an actual White supremacist.

    How many Black legislators support this bill?

    This is beyond embarrassing. It’s appalling and shameful.

  • Michael roberts

    February 7, 2024 at 6:13 am

    Ron loves a man in a uniform, he was openly supported by Neo-nazis during the last election.He also has his own state militia,a volunteer based group that dress up and play soldier.

  • MH/Duuuval

    February 7, 2024 at 11:36 am

    [The] Jacksonville City Council is … is tearing down statues of Democrats. Quit it,” Martin said.

    If Martin believes folks in the South are ignorant of how the parties flipped identities in the 1960s, then he might be better off in MAGA Iowa where this type of ignorance is embraced.

    Why would an intelligent person like Bradley continue to vote for Martin’s mess? Please, move on to some real problems confronting regular people in Florida.

  • me

    February 7, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    HB395 & SB1122 will both pass and be signed by our Great Governor!

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 7, 2024 at 3:32 pm

      No doubt something will pass, but not as retroactive laws. Those are unconstitutional going out of the gate — though there is little that lawyered up MAGAS fear since they don’t pay for the lawyers and the matter can be dragged out in courts for years.

      • MH/Duuuval

        February 8, 2024 at 10:07 am

        Ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 (with respect to federal laws) and Article 1, Section 10 (with respect to state laws). — per Wiki

        Of course, MAGA law permits anything DJT and his supine mob’s little hearts desire.

  • Michael roberts

    February 7, 2024 at 3:36 pm

    yes floriduh has real problems. big ones that do not get dealt with.I wish politicians would leave their love of drag queens and trans youth behind and fix real issues. Water quality , home insurance infrastructure Affordable housing The trafficking of drugs to name a few. The things that politicians get obsessed by is puzzling .

  • Michael roberts

    February 7, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    we have a great governor ? who would that be. ?

  • Sad Republican

    February 9, 2024 at 9:06 am

    It makes this longtime Republican cringe to see politicians defending and advocating for those who tried to overthrow the government by force of arms in order to preserve slavery. Didn’t we used to be the party of Lincoln?

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 9, 2024 at 11:09 am

      There is some irony in Lincoln-Trump annual party celebrations in the MAGA version of the GOP..

    • stupid comments

      February 10, 2024 at 4:24 pm

      Sad Republican, you are ignorant, you do not know history

      • MH/Duuuval

        February 10, 2024 at 5:28 pm

        Give him credit for understanding the import of J6, which so many registered Republicans still deny.

  • Michael roberts

    February 13, 2024 at 5:22 pm

    trumps is orange jello. waste of a human being.

Comments are closed.


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