Presser notes: Monuments and masks

By Jeremy Morrison

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson now finds himself needing to caveat a recent decision by the Pensacola City Council to remove a Confederate monument from downtown.

“There’s still a lot of questions going on with the monument,” Robinson said Monday during his weekly press conference.

Last week, city council voted to remove the Confederate monument from Lee Square on Palafox Street, and also return the area to its original name of Florida Square. Soonthereafter, a lawsuit was filed by Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with other organizations, seeking to stop the city from removing the monument; First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh quickly granted an emergency temporary restraining order preventing the monument’s removal prior to a preliminary injunctive hearing.

The mayor contested the rationale of the lawsuit — that the monument is a purely veterans’ memorial — and also dismissed claims that any Confederate remains are enclosed in the monument.

“It is not a veterans’ monument,” Robinson said, pointing out that plaques at the monument base dedicate the site to Confederate leaders. “It is a monument to Jefferson Davis.”

The mayor said that he has had a number of people contact him about the monument’s removal, casting him as a “prisoner of the moment.” He stressed that the city was not trying to “erase history,” but rather move the monument to a more appropriate place, such as potentially St. Michael’s Cemetery, where a number of Confederate veterans are buried.

“It’s not the intent to erase history, it’s an intent to relocate history,” Robinson said.

As to the legal challenge regarding city council’s decision to remove the monument, the mayor said that City Attorney Susan Woolf will be assisted by private attorney Bruce Pardington at a “much reduced rate.”

“The city will comply with whatever decision comes out of the court system,” Robinson said.

Escambia Still Mask Shy

In the weeks following his issuance of a city-wide mask mandate for indoor, public spaces Mayor Robinson has pleaded with other local governments in the region to enact similar such orders. Only Gulf Breeze has followed the city’s lead.

Monday, Robinson stressed the rising number of COVID cases in the area — “we are having challenges” — and again repeated his request that other local officials consider mandating masks.

“I continue to remind them that we as local leaders asked for the opportunity to lead,” the mayor said. “I don’t believe we need the governor to step in and ask us to do something.”

Robinson said he wasn’t expecting that leaders in Escambia County would move to require masks. He said he had spoken specifically with Commission Chairman Steven Barry, who he described as “less optimistic about that.”

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1 thought on “Presser notes: Monuments and masks

  1. My view remains that the best way to resolve this issue without tearing the city apart is to put the question to city voters during the upcoming general election. I do not trust for a moment the Robinson Administration claim that it would cost in excess of $10,000,000 to add a balancing monument to recognize the Union troops who fought in the war. I also question why the city’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) was bypassed. When cleaning up my home office, tossing out a lot of old newspapers, etc., I came across a story in either the PNJ or Inweekly where Quint Studer praised the ARB. Even if the “fix” was in from the start, as does seem to be the case, the ARB has the experience and a staff support person (a historical preservation planner) to navigate the historic regulation maze to ensure that whatever is done is done right. I also remain convinced that what the City Council did on June 11 did not constitution once of the six authorized “actions” as that term is used in City Council Policy 4.31. In his memorandum, City Administrator Wilkins talked around the issue by referring to what was done on June 11 as a discussion about “potential action.” It was not even that. I have a copy of the original City Council agenda item from June 22, 2000. It does not describe what is meant by the phrase “final action” but Assistant City Manager Payne may have left in the files an explanation why he recommended that the City Council tie a 30-day delay to that phrase. It either means a second vote (my view) or something else. My review of old copies of the Pensacola News Journal supports the view that the common understanding is that the monument is tied to veterans to include the Visit Pensacola website referring to it as the “Monument for the Confederate Dead.” The April 27, 1960 edition of the Pensacola News-Journal had a nice article about Confederate Memorial Day to include mention that “Devotion of the 24 women, majority of them gray and youthfulness gone, proved those solders were not completely forgotten.” I recall reading that in 2017 the Lakeland (Florida) City Commission voted to move its monument to its Veterans Memorial Park at a projected cost of $250,000. Someone might want to find out how that worked out.

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