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Protesters Call For Removal Of Confederate Memorial

Last week, Hillsborough County Commissioners voted against removing a Confederate memorial that has stood outside the county courthouse for more than a century. On Tuesday, a group of protesters met to keep up the pressure.

"Take it down! Take it down!," they chanted.

Several dozen people crowded around the 1911 statue, saying a move by county commissioners to place a mural near the Confederate memorial isn't enough. County Commissioner Pat Kemp was on the losing end of the 4-3 vote to move the statue. But she vowed to press on.

"I will be there, supporting moving this from the courthouse grounds," she said. "Moving forward, I think we have to do that, we have the world watching us, and we have the United States watching us, the whole country watching us."

Kemp, who said she is descended from a Confederate soldier, was joined by Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera and several members of the clergy - one  who called the refusal to move the statute a form of "spiritual warfare."

One of the speakers was the Rev. James Golden, with the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bradenton.

"We will not go away. We will not be afraid, and we will not stop 'til the four of you - one of you must change not just your mind, but you've got to change your heart," he said. "And to the four who voted against it: be warned. One of the three that lost is going to put it on the agenda. And the issue is, which of the four of you will have the moral fortitude, the courage, that will have the ability to say let the dead past bury the dead past."

Several speakers called on commissioners to move the century-old statute to a nearby historic cemetery. Called 'Memoria In Aeterna,' it sits outside of a courthouse administrative building and depicts two Civil War soldiers next to an obelisk. Facing north, the statue depicts a proud and young Confederate soldier, while facing south, a battered and weary soldier in tattered clothing plods along.

Last week, commissioners voted to add a mural celebrating America's diversity on a wall surrounding the monument. They called it a compromise, after advocates of Southern heritage say removing these symbols is a disservice to the men who fought in the Civil War.

"If we don't look for a compromise or consensus, there's going to be hatred and anger that could last for decades," said commissioner Victor Crist, who made the motion for the mural. "If we want to heal a community, if we want to bring people together, we need to take this, regardless of how it's viewed and wrap our love around it."

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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