Confederate Monument Supporters Want a New Vote

Munn Park soldierWith four new members in place, the Lakeland City Commission is being asked to reverse a six-week-old decision to relocate the Confederate monument from Munn Park.

A full-page ad in The Ledger today reminds monument supporters that the commission meets Tuesday morning and urges them to call or email commissioners to “keep the historic Munn Street Veterans Monument right where it is.” (Note: There is no Munn Street in Lakeland.)

The advertisement included an essay under the byline of St. Petersburg immigration attorney Andy G. Strickland that blames the effort to move the monument on a “small, angry group of out-of-town dissidents” with an “ultimate destructive goal: to fundamentally change America.”

Strickland formed the non-profit Veterans’ Monuments of America in July. The ad includes a link to the organization’s Facebook page as well as to the websites for Save Their Honor, Save Southern Heritage Florida and the Facebook page for Save Our Statue – SOS Lakeland (The link provided for that page is either no longer active or visible only to its followers.)

The Veterans’ Monuments of America group urged its followers last month to vote for Michael Dunn in his successful runoff for a City Commission seat.

Dunn returned the favor three days later by holding a press conference to announce an effort to reverse the decision that had been made earlier that week by the City Commission to relocate the monument, according to an article in the right-leaning Central Florida Post. LkldNow was not invited to that news conference.

City commissioners voted 4-3 Dec. 4 to ask City Manager Tony Delgado and his staff to “immediately begin the process of moving the Munn Park statue followed by an analysis of possible relocation sites.”

The vote came after a lengthy public hearing in which 44 of 62 speakers, all or nearly all of them from Lakeland, supported moving the monument.

Munn monument
This photo of the Munn Park Confederate monument was taken Sept. 3, 2017, moments before the start of a silent vigil protesting it. About 50 people joined the protest, and a half-dozen counter-protesters showed up.

It was one of the 2016-2017 commission’s last acts before four new commissioners were seated this month. Among the three then-commissioners who are still on the board, the measure was supported by Justin Troller and Phillip Walker and opposed by Bill Read.

The four new commissioners have expressed varying opinions on the Munn Park monument. New Mayor Bill Mutz has supported relocating the monument, saying divisiveness over the statue hinders economic progress. Dunn has firmly supported preserving the monument in its current location. New Commissioners Scott Franklin and Stephanie Madden both termed themselves “undecided” when running for office last year.

The ad in today’s newspaper also urges supporters to call state Sen. Kelli Stargel and ask her to sponsor a bill, already filed in the Florida House, that would prohibit the removal of veterans monuments from public property.

The monument in the center of Munn Park was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910. It is topped by a marble likeness of a soldier, one of more than 200 made by McNeil Marble Co. in Marietta, Ga.

Inscriptions at the base read “Confederate Dead” and “The heroic deeds will never fade, from memory’s brightest page, and their brave defense of country and home, is left a glorious heritage.”

View previous LkldNow coverage of the monument issue.

Today’s newspaper ad:

Ledger ad on Munn Park Monument