By JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Gov. Rick Scott says proposals to remove a Confederate soldier monument from the Capitol grounds should be handled through the Legislature, where the controversial issue could be discussed early next year.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates and the Florida NAACP are among a chorus of people calling for Scott to relocate the memorial outside the Old Capitol or to hold a special legislative session on the future of Confederate monuments on public lands. The demands, at least in part, are a reaction to a white supremacist rally this month in Charlottesville, Va. that turned deadly.
Scott held to his stance Tuesday that government agencies across the state that have Confederate markers on their property should make the final decisions about possible removal.
And in the case of the monument outside the Old Capitol, Florida lawmakers will start holding a series of pre-session committee meetings Sept. 12.
“We’ve got a regular session that starts in January, so that’s just a few months away,” Scott told reporters Tuesday after an Enterprise Florida board meeting in Fort Lauderdale.
As of early Wednesday, no bills had been proposed to address the Confederate soldier memorial that has stood outside the Old Capitol since 1882.
On Tuesday, the Florida NAACP demanded Scott and lawmakers remove the Confederate monument — as well as flags and memorials representing “hate, racism, and discrimination.”
“We are and will continue to be steadfast and immovable in the fight against discrimination, prejudice and hatred,” Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference, said in a prepared statement.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, has directly targeted the Confederate soldier memorial as something glorifying history’s “ugliest moments.”
The monument lists Civil War battles participated in by Confederate soldiers from Leon County.
Another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Winter Park businessman Chris King, went further.
“These monuments should be removed because we should not celebrate literal anti-American ideology or any ideology based on the oppression of any group of people,” King said in a statement. “And to those who say these monuments are needed to preserve our history, I say we don’t need memorials celebrating this dark time in our history.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat expected to be challenged by Scott next year, tweeted Tuesday that “Confederate statues belong in a historical museum or cemetery, not in a place of honor.”
The corrective tweet came a day after the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Nelson said, “I think leaving it up to the good sense of the communities involved is the best thing to do.”
While the debate rages in Florida and other states, President Donald Trump has used Twitter to bolster support for such monuments, say it was “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”
— News Service of Florida senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this report.