Activists plan to peacefully protest a Confederate monument in the city of Bradenton on Monday evening. But after a white supremacist rally in Virginia over a similar issue turned deadly, Manatee County law enforcement officials said they want to make sure the public is safe.
Shakira Refos is with Black Lives Matter Manasota. Her group is teaming up with others to voice for the removal of a Confederate statue near the Manatee County courthouse. Refos said the monument displaying a Confederate flag represents a time when black people were not seen as equal under the law.
“In front of the courthouse, where you expect to receive the most equal treatment under the eyes of the law, you walk past the statue. And understand that maybe that courthouse doesn’t symbolize equal treatment. Maybe it symbolizes something else,” she said.
Refos said she understands the history behind the statue, but she thinks it belongs in a museum and not in a public space.
At an emergency county commission meeting Friday, Col. Dwayne Denison of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office told commissioners that, along with the Bradenton Police Department, they’re preparing for the worst case scenario.
“I’m very hopeful that this is going to be a peaceful demonstration on both sides. They’ll come and say their peace and I think we’re gonna be ok," he said. "But we will be prepared.”
Commissioners voted to cover up the monument ahead of the protest, and they expect to take up the issue of removal at another time. Manatee County’s clerk of court said the office will close at 1 PM on Monday, giving employees and customers enough time to safely leave before the protest.
The Unity March is scheduled to start at 6:30 PM on Monday. Organizers expect a few hundred people to participate.