Confederate Monument’s Fate Hangs with City Council
by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly
Pensacola’s Confederate monument in Lee Square on Palafox may be coming down. Or maybe not. That question will remain unanswered until later this summer, as the matter will need to wriggle its way through the municipal process.
“The main thing I’d like to see at that square is that everybody feel comfortable that’s there. That has to happen,” said Mayor Grover Robinson, during an internet question-and-answer session Wednesday.
Over the course of the past two weeks, local protesters have joined the national movement calling for law enforcement reforms in a system viewed as racially bias. And like protests around the county, particularly the southeast, a call has been issued to remove monuments honoring the Confederacy.
Mayor Robinson said previously that this was “not the right time” to remove the Confederate monument in Lee Square. On Wednesday, he clarified that statement.
“What we meant by ‘right now,’ was that exact moment,” Robinson said, explaining that he had not yet run the issue by the city’s legal department.
Yesterday, the mayor was informed that because of a number of ordinances passed by the Pensacola City Council in 2000, the issue would need to be presented to that body and then could be considered by the council following a 30-day waiting period.
Mayor Robinson said he intended to bring the issue before council July 16. Prior to that, city staff is being asked to assess the Lee Square site and determine if there is opportunity to install additional monuments or statues that could be more representative of the the city’s inhabitants and history, perhaps offering balance and context.
“For a long time it’s been my position that we could add to that location and we could make it something representative,” the mayor said.
Robinson said that he would present to council whatever city staff determined was the best path forward, though he personally doesn’t like the concept of removing monuments.
“As a history major, I don’t think taking down monuments makes us a better Pensacola,” Robinson said.
The mayor also noted that he intended to change the name of Lee Square to Florida Square, its original moniker.
“We believe that the square should go back to it’s original name of Florida Square,” the mayor said, tying the renaming to the state’s 200th anniversary next year.
Pensacola is diving into this issue — as it has done before, without any changes occurring — at a time when other cities in the South, like Jacksonville, or Mobile and Birmingham, Ala. are removing monuments to Confederacy.
Also during Wednesday’s Q&A session, Mayor Robinson addressed the issue of ongoing protests at Graffiti Bridge on 17th Avenue. Following an incident Saturday when protesters blocked traffic and one man ended up on the hood of a vehicle that proceeded to drive across the bay bridge, the mayor had indicated that the protesters would need to find a new locale due to “traffic challenges.”
Protesters made pretty clear that they had no intention of relocating, and on Wednesday the mayor reframed the issue, saying the city had only requested the move.
“We have never said the protest had to move, we suggested that they move,” Robinson said, later adding, “If Graffiti Bridge is where they want to be, we’ll continue to work in that realm.”