The Phoenix Flyer

FL lawmaker files bill to make it illegal to remove Confederate monuments

By: - January 3, 2019 10:22 am
Confederate monument in St Augustine

St Augustine’s Confederate memorial

State Rep. Mike Hill. Wikipedia photo.

In the past few years, local governments throughout Florida have gone through excruciating public discussions about whether or not to remove Confederate monuments from public lands.

Now a Florida Republican is proposing legislation that would eliminate those contentious debates by making it illegal to remove the monuments from public property.

“The Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act” has been introduced by State Rep. Mike Hill, who represents the Pensacola area. The legislation would make it a third-degree felony for anyone who “willfully and maliciously” damages, defaces, injures or removes Confederate memorials, flags and other symbols, as well as street and school names honoring Confederate soldiers.

“This is simply a small battle in the entire war for the soul of this nation,” Hill told Fox News last weekend.

Hill is African-American, an Air Force veteran and hard-line conservative supporter of President Donald Trump.

“On one side, we have the left, that for some reason, wants to divide and destroy this nation,” the legislator said on Fox & Friends last Saturday. “On the other side, we have constitutional conservatives who believe in championing the rights of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equal protection under the law and constitution that limits this government by the consent of the governed.”

Local governments in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Lakeland and Gainesville have all voted to remove Confederate monuments in recent years. In St. Augustine last summer, the City Commission opted not to remove a Confederate monument on city property, instead deciding to add informational plaques providing “context” to the obelisk. There are several such Confederate monuments that continue to decorate county courthouses throughout the state.

The bill has the enthusiastic support of Save Southern Heritage, a group that has fought against the removal of Confederate statues up and down the state.

“I’m for it!” emailed spokesman David McCallister.

The Florida Legislature voted in 2016 to remove the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C., where it had been featured since 1922.

Momentum to remove his statue as well as other Confederate monuments in Florida and throughout the South began shortly after the mass shooting of nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist who was seen posing with a picture of the Confederate flag before he committed his attack.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.