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440 crosses draw attention

The drive along First Avenue S is no different from a cruise down any other city street, until you come to 49th Street and the yard with 440 white, wooden crosses.

Planted this week by members of the Central Christian Church youth ministry, the crosses are supposed to deliver a message to curious drivers and passers-by.

But a sign posted to explain the display was removed after a city code enforcement officer said it was illegal.

"They're standing for the 4,400 unborn children who die each day because of abortion. Each cross represents 10 children," said Mike Surgenor, the church's youth minister.

Surgenor, along with eight youth coaches andsome 30 teenagers, planted the crosses Sunday after discussing abortion in a youth meeting. They will remain until the end of June.

Neighbors have yet to complain about the display, but city officials are looking into it.

"They have the freedom to express themselves on an issue, provided it is within the property line and it is not obscene or in any way a hazard," said Sally Trocki, the city's code service coordinator.

The display is in the back of Central Park, a group of cottages at 4824 Second Ave. S, used by the church for Sunday school and youth meetings. The church owns the property.

The crosses were donated by the Suncoast Baptist Association's Christian Action Council and painted by Surgenor and members of Central Christian's youth ministry.