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Hillsborough Commissioner Miller wants another vote on Tampa's Confederate monument

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller said he will try again to get his colleagues to remove the Confederate memorial in downtown Tampa when the board meets later in July.

Chris Urso, Times

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller said he will try again to get his colleagues to remove the Confederate memorial in downtown Tampa when the board meets later in July.

TAMPA — The debate on Tampa’s Confederate monument isn’t over yet.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller will once again ask his colleagues to remove the statue from outside the old county courthouse at the board’s next meeting on July 19, he told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.

Commissioners decided 4-3 last month to keep the monument in downtown Tampa, where it has stood since 1932. In the weeks since, Miller said he has seen a “major groundswell of people who want it removed” and he hopes at least one commissioner’s opinion has been swayed.

Commissioners Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White voted against removal. Miller and Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Pat Kemp wanted it gone.

Since the vote, local elected officials, activists, faith leaders and other residents held a protest and news conference in front of the monument calling for commissioners to reconsider.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the city council have come out strongly against the monument, which sits in the heart of Tampa but on county property. City leaders are concerned a memorial to the Confederacy blunts Tampa’s efforts to position itself as a diverse and inclusive community, just as the city is gaining momentum.

They worried that people around the country wouldn't differentiate that the county made the decision, not Tampa officials.

“We’ll see if we can get a commissioner to change their heart and mind,” Miller said. “More and more people have come forth and said this has to come out this has to be removed.”

The monument, called Memoria in Aeterna, was built in 1911 with funds raised the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The marble structure depicts two Confederate soldiers, one marching into battle and another, uniform tattered, walking home, with an obelisk in between.

In the dedication speech, the keynote speaker called African Americans an “ignorant and inferior race” and said a president that appoints black citizens to federal positions “a traitor to the Anglo-Saxon race."

Miller will propose returning the statue to the Daughters of the Confederacy for placement on private land.

No matter the decision, Miller said he will continue to oppose an alternative plan to commission a mural for a 10-foot wall behind the statue. Crist suggested the mural could depict the county’s diversity in hopes of a compromise between those advocating removal and those pushing for it to remain. The four prevailing commissioners supported it, but Miller, the county's only black commissioner, said it's a bad idea.

“There have been people that said it’s a slap in the face to everyone,” Miller said. "To put a mural showing diversity behind a monument constructed in 1911 and the person made the comments that blacks were inferior, that does not make any sense at all.”

At the July 19 meeting, commissioners will also consider a proposal from White to protect all of the county’s war memorials from removal by future boards.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 5, 2017 12:05pm]

    

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