Confederate monument will stay in Florida park, for now

Women of the Confederacy memorial at what is now called Springfield Park. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A proposal to remove a Confederate monument from a Jacksonville park has been withdrawn after a heated debate that ended with the audience being ordered out of City Council chambers.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had requested $1.3 million to cover the costs of dismantling and removing the granite and bronze monument called “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy" from Springfield Park.

When the debate got heated, council President Sam Newby ordered the audience removed from the room. The council voted 12-6 to withdraw the motion.

Some 90 residents signed up for public comment over the issue. When they grew noisy in the council chambers, they were ordered out.

“Common sense says we should remove monuments of racial hatred from public property,” Northside Coalition President Ben Frazier said.

He said protesters are prepared to launch nonviolent civil disobedience actions, demonstrations at city-owned buildings and area shopping malls, and possibly boycotts if the monument isn’t removed.

Dozens of monument supporters wearing red shirts also attended the meeting. The groups briefly exchanged chants of “leave it up,” and “take ’em down” outside City Hall before the meeting.

Supporters blamed “cancel culture” for the push to remove the monument.

“This bullying has got to stop,” one woman told the council. “The lame excuse the statue is hindering the growth of the city is a joke.”

The mayor had wanted the council to take an up-or-down vote on the proposal, news outlets reported. Now questions remain about the next step.

City Council member Reggie Gaffney pushed to withdraw the motion to give city leaders “a chance to regroup" and put together a committee to work toward a resolution.

“We need true dialogue,” he said.

However, Newby told The Florida Times-Union after the meeting that it's too early to say what steps will be taken or whether that would include forming a committee.

Newby said withdrawing the motion allows the city to start the process again and come up with “a comprehensive plan to death with all of the monuments here in Jacksonville." He said he would like to see a recommendation before his term ends next June.

Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes told reporters that the mayor “made a very clear policy statement” for a path to a resolution “that ends this divisiveness and removes from city property something that some in our community see as an expression of racial hatred.”

Instead, he said, the council instead “kicked the can down the road.”

“Tonight the City Council disappointingly denied a step toward real progress in our city by refusing to vote on the removal of a divisive monument from public land,” Curry said in a tweet after the vote.