Monument will be moved

Confederate Memorial protest
- Joe Hendricks | Sun

The Manatee County Commission voted 4-3 in favor of removing and relocating the Confederate monument at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Bradenton Tuesday.

Potential new locations will include, but not be limited to the Veterans Park on the Manatee River in Bradenton or the Gamble Mansion in Palmetto. Further public input will help determine the monument’s next location. It is not yet known if the monument will be placed in temporary storage in the interim.

Commissioners Charles Smith, Betsy Benac, Carol Whitmore and Priscilla Trace voted in favor of the relocation. Commissioners Vanessa Baugh, Robin DiSabatino and Steve Jonsson opposed it.

The vote came the day after a protest at the memorial on Monday afternoon. During public input today, it was noted that another protest is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 28.

Monday night’s protests and counter protests of the Confederate monument in downtown Bradenton were a noisy but non-violent affair. Verbal exchanges between monument opponents and supporters became heated at times, but never escalated to physical violence.

Three arrests were made, but nobody was injured. There was an incident involving a monument opponent who grabbed an anti-fascist flag and tried to burn it, but the flag was fire-retardant and never fully caught fire. There was another incident involving a monument supporter who tried to grab a microphone or bullhorn from a monument opponent who was addressing the crowd.

Sheriff’s deputies in tactical gear stood in front of the monument that had earlier been encased in protective plywood, and also at various points around the large courthouse square. A Sheriff’s Office helicopter hovered above and large trucks blocked 12th Street West to prevent a vehicular attack like the one that occurred recently in Charlottesville. Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Dave Bristow estimated there were approximately 200 law enforcement officials in the area during Monday’s protest.

A large crowd of monument opponents gathered in the courthouse square and chanted “The monument must go,” and other catchphrases. Some monument supporters stood among the courtyard crowd, while others gathered closer to the monument and expressed their opposition to history being erased. On this night, the encased monument served as more of a backdrop than a primary focal point of the protesters’ attention.

Mounted deputies waited on standby in a parking garage around the corner. Shortly after 8 p.m., a large group of monument opponents marched to the nearby Riverwalk before dispersing for the night. Mounted deputies then arrived at the square and broke up what remained of the crowd.

By 9:15 p.m., the controversial monument again stood in silence and solitude.

On Tuesday, Manatee County Commissioners praised the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Bradenton Police Department for allowing the verbal exchanges to occur but not escalate. Sheriff Rick Wells told the commission the extra police protection cost the county between $20,000 and $30,000.