City commissioners did not respond today when Lakeland resident Jo Ann Holmes asked them to move the Confederate monument someplace other than Veterans Park and that they spend city funds on the move rather than rely on donations.
It’s not the first time she has asked to speak about the monument. A previous group of commissioners took no action in September 2015 when she was most likely the first person to publicly ask them to move the 1910-vintage memorial out of Munn Park.
More than two years later — December 2017 — she was the first speaker when commissioners heard from 62 people on both sides of the issue and then voted 4-3 to move the monument. Subsequently, they chose Veterans Park over Roselawn Cemetery as the monument’s new home and further stipulated that city funds would not be used for the move.
Holmes requested five minutes to address the commission today, and as in the past she spoke forcefully but in measured tones. She made three requests of the city:
- “Rethink the selection of Veterans Park” as the monument’s new home since the park was built on the site of an African American community “displaced for the greater good,” the building of a convention and entertainment center.
- Remove the statue of the Confederate statue from its pedestal when it is moved and display it “without embellishment.”
- Pay the cost of moving the statue rather than relying on private donations since payment would represent “another step forward in truth and reconciliation.”
After she spoke, commissioners offered no comment and continued with their meeting.
Good morning, Mr. Mayor, city commissioners and all present. My name is Jo Ann Holmes, and I am a resident of the city of Lakeland.
The elation felt at the commission’s decision to remove the statue of the Confederate soldier from Munn Park was soon diminished by subsequent news concerning the statue’s relocation. So it is with some heaviness of heart that I approach my remarks today.
The city, having taken a step forward toward truth and reconciliation, seems to be again sliding backward with affronts to justice, fairness and community good will.
Knowing a little of the history of the acres now occupied by Veterans Park, I was surprised and dismayed that Veterans Park was chosen as the site for relocation of the statue. Acquisition by right of eminent domain assumes that such acquisition will be for progress and betterment of the entity invoking the right. So the Moorehead community was displaced for the theoretical greater good. No one, of course, at the time of the acquisition was aware that in the future a plan for a Veterans Park honoring the servicemen and women who served the United States armed services would also authorize the inclusion of a statue of a Confederate soldier which could, if pedestal and plinth are to be retained, tower over the monuments of those who fought FOR liberty and equality for all as opposed to the Confederate Army which fought against liberty and equality for all.
It is also dismaying to learn that the city has decided to pay for the cost of relocation of the statue by soliciting donations from the general public. This is not just a matter of injustice in asking those who have suffered the offense of the statue to pay the bill for having the offense removed, though such a decision is tantamount to expecting a defendant who has just been declared innocent of the charges against him to pay for the removal of the shackles he wore into the court room.
The decision also overlooks the precedent of the city having contributed funds from the public coffers to erect the statue in 1910. Not the bulk of the cost, it’s true, but a contribution nonetheless. It is my understanding where public money is concerned, that is is not the amount of the contribution which sets the precedent, but the act of contributing. In for a penny, in for a pound, so to speak.
Therefore, I respectfully request the City Commission to rethink its selection of Veterans Park as the site for relocation of the Confederate statue. And that the decision to keep the statue on its pedestal and plinth be rescinded. That the statue, no matter where it is relocated, rest at ground or floor levels without embellishment of any sort.
And I also respectfully request that the city pay for the entire cost of relocation of the monument. This would not only be just and fair and legal, it would be another step forward toward truth and reconciliation.
Dismay and heaviness of heart notwithstanding, there is cause for rejoicing in all this. As the city of Lakeland, in pursuit of its ideals for a more prosperous and inclusive future for all of its citizens, will surely find a centerpiece for Munn Park that is more emblematic of those ideals. Thank you.