Presser Notes: the Citizen Committee, a Confederate Monument and COVID-19

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

Weeks into its phased reopening, Florida’s experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Nearly a year after the police shooting of Tymar Crawford, a citizen oversight committee is taking shape. And with a month to go before a defining discussion, a Confederate monument awaits its fate.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson addressed each of these fronts in the city of Pensacola during his weekly press conference Monday morning.

Keeping an Eye on COVID

With Florida experiencing its highest spikes to date in coronavirus cases, Mayor Robinson said that city officials are “staying on top of that issue,” but not yet considering a pause on the reopenings.

“COVID-19 is obviously still here,” Robinson said, noting the uptick in the percentage of tests coming back positive. “COVID is still something we’re monitoring and taking seriously.”

The mayor said that the upward trend in the wake of the state’s phased reopening was not yet sufficient to trigger a retreat to “yellow,” a color-code representative of pulling back on the reopening. He noted that in discussions with local hospital officials — who he’s conferring again with on Monday — there was a sense that the area was in no danger of hitting up against capacity issues.

“They said each hospital had over 100 ventilators and only a fraction of those are being used, we’re talking 1 and 2 percent,” Robinson said.

The mayor said that the city did have defined thresholds which would dictate when to reassess the reopenings. If 15 percent of the city’s first responders and emergency personnel — public safety and medical professionals — are unable to work, then the city will dial back.

“That’s when we go to yellow,” he explained. “We go to red at 30 percent down; that’s when we can’t function anymore.”

Robinson noted that local case numbers were still lower than they were in March and April, and said the city is monitoring conditions as they change.

“We’re watching it,” he said.

Citizen’s Initiate

Following the July 5 police shooting of Tymar Crawford, a black man who was pulled over by local police officers, community organization Pensacola Dream Defenders issued a list of demands to the city. Key on that list was the formation of a citizen oversight committee to focus on the city’s police department.

Mayor Robinson recently announced that Cedric Alexander, a retired law enforcement officer with a national reputation that the city has contracted with to work with the Pensacola Police Department, will soon begin to work with the still-being-assembled committee. Monday, the mayor offered some more details about the committee, including its initial members.

Last week, Robinson outlined the committee’s formula: he will get four appointees to the committee, while each member of the Pensacola City Council will be allowed a single appointee. Once formed, the committee will work with Alexander to gather community input through a series of town halls.

Mayor Robinson had already named Hale Morrissette, member of the Dream Defenders, as one of his picks to the committee. Monday, he said he was also selecting Kyle Cole, of the KYLE Project, an active participant in ongoing protests in the city against systemic racism within law enforcement. The mayor has yet to decide on his remaining two seats on the committee.

Three city council members have also now submitted their picks to the mayor. District 1 Councilman P.C. Wu has selected Laura McKnight. District 2 Councilwoman Sherri Myers has selected Charles Bare, a former councilman. And District 3 Councilman Andy Terhaar has chosen Drew Buchanan, who previously served on the mayor’s transition team. The remaining four council members have until Friday to submit their selections.

“Once we have the entire group assembled we will task the members with going into the communities to gather information,” Mayor Robinson said.

Considering the Confederate Monument

As protests against systemic racism with the ranks of law enforcement continue across the country, communities have been addressing a continual point of conflict: monuments to Confederacy. In some places, local governments have made moves to take down the monuments, in other places protesters themselves have toppled the monuments and statues.

“I know this is a very divisive topic,” Mayor Robinson said Monday. “But I, for the most part, have been proud of the way Pensacola has handled it.”

The Pensacola City Council last week triggered a 30-day waiting period required before the removal of such monuments. In July, council members plan to discuss, and possibly make a decision on the issue.

Mayor Robinson has stated that he would prefer to leave the monument alone, while adding other elements to Lee Square — which he plans to return to its original Florida Square moniker — to offer balance and context, but also acknowledged that city council will make the ultimate decision.

“Whatever decision comes out of the council on the 16th, we as a community have to be able to move forward,” Robinson said Monday. “Whatever we do, we need to be thoughtful, deliberate and respectful.”


4 thoughts on “Presser Notes: the Citizen Committee, a Confederate Monument and COVID-19

  1. I believe to most of the thinking people it is apparent what has gone on internationally the last few weeks has been a coordinated socialists revolution, with other grass roots attached. The political coup has been in play since the election of 2016. Many don’t understand this and the Markism, ideal that capitalism is evil and the issues. The USA should not bow to this pressure. We are a constitutional republic bound by laws and I don’t think the majority of US citizens are ready to give that up. Of course some policies can be looked at and progress made but be clear what is driving this train at this time. I think it has been a shock and upset but that is their tactic. Race is a useful dividing agenda unfortunately, as anything there is truth to be found and work to be done. The obvious differences between conservatives and radical left is on display and some don’t even understand that.

  2. Confederate Monument: We are having a general election in just a few months. Every time the issue of the Confederate Monument comes up, and it does every few years, I have said that we should let city voters decide its fate because city residents own the monument. A creative alternative is to lease Lee Square to the Daughters of the Confederacy, or the North Hill Preservation Association, for $1 a year much as Veteran’s Memorial Park is leased from the city and controlled by a private non-profit corporation. I have spoken with some of the protesters. They want to remove much more of the city’s history than just the Confederate Monument. More about what the Pensacola “Dream Defenders” demand is explained here:

  3. Regarding the written false claim this is a monument of to Robert E Leee, The truth is, it is a monument of a veteran of war with a hat in his hand. Even if it was Robert E Lee, so what, he was conflicted about whether to join the war at all to begin with but his love for beloved Virginia compelled his to take up the cause. His surrender at Appomattox Court House was in the manner and true epitome of being a gentleman. I guess some would have no concept of the width and depth of some things when they are narrowed down into a little box so they can wrap pea brains around the entirety and complexity of the war between people in the states to attack it. Par for the course so it seems these days. The lack intellectual depth is stunning .

  4. I am not understanding why the Mayor keeps equivocating on this matter? The issue is clear about these monuments’ history being inextricably tied to racial oppression and marginalization of African Americans by the Confederate States of America. Why are we celebrating traitors, racist bigots and losers of the Civil War where they took up arms against the USA?

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