More than a month after the Lakeland City Commission voted to move the Confederate memorial from the center of downtown, fundraising has slowed and tensions continue.
The commission voted to relocated the 26-foot-tall statue from Munn Park to Veterans Memorial Park on May 7, but voted against using public funds to do so. Instead, the city is relying upon private donations and a GoFundMe page to raise the estimated $225,000 needed for the move. So far, they've raised less than $10,000.
City Commissioner Michael Dunn, who campaigned on opposing the relocation of the Confederate monument, said the lack of donations since the vote confirms what he's believed all along.
"It's been said around here that the community as a general doesn't want it moved," he said. "To me, this kind of lends evidence that, indeed, this may be the fact."
Dunn donated a handgun from his Vets Army Navy Surplus store for a raffle at a rally against removing the statue back in April. About a hundred people showed up to the rally to speak out in favour of the marble memorial erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910. Dunn said he is also considering proposing an ordinance that would ban any future changes to Confederate monuments in Lakeland.
Some residents are hoping an online auction will help kick start donations to the city's relocation fund.
Fred Koehler, a Lakeland resident and children's book author, is organizing the auction. He said more than 40 people have agreed to donate their services to be auctioned off on the website LakelandSpeaks.com
Koehler said he disagrees with Dunn's analysis that the lack of donations indicate a lack of public support for relocation efforts.
"There are a lot of folks who want their voices heard who maybe don't have the deep pockets to make big donations," he said. Moving the statue, Koehler said, would show residents and visitors that Lakleand is an accepting city.
"The fact that we can take it down from our city center and put it in a place that is more appropriate for a veterans memorial tells the world that our city is moving forward and tells the world that we are welcoming to all people," he said.
City officials say the funraising websites will stay up until the $225,000 is collected. Due to city rules, comissioners can not vote again on public funding for the memorial relocation until December.