Add Lakeland to the list of cities where monuments to the Confederacy are being relocated following the racially motivated killings of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church and the killing in Charlottesville, Va., of a woman protesting a white supremacy rally.
City commissioners capped a long and emotional meeting this afternoon with a 4-3 vote to relocate a monument erected in 1910 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to a location other than the center of Munn Park.
The motion, made by departing Commissioner Don Selvage, asks 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.”
Joining Selvage to support the motion were Commissioners Jim Malless, Justin Troller and Phillip Walker.
Walker previously had been cool to attempts to move the monument, but today he told The Ledger that he feels it’s “what’s best for the community” after the failure of a motion to supplement the Munn Park statue with other heritage monuments.
Voting against Selvage’s motion were Mayor Howard Wiggs and Commissioners Bill Read and Edie Yates.
The Selvage motion mentioned three possible locations — Veterans Park just west of the RP Funding Center, Lake Mirror or City Hall — but leaves open the possibility of other locations being considered. Some at the meeting had suggested the city’s Roselawn Cemetery, where some Confederate veterans are buried, and several speakers recommended Veterans Park.
The commission voted after listening to 62 speakers who had signed up to discuss the monument. A large majority of speakers favored moving the statue, with many arguing that it no longer represents what Lakeland has become or its future.
City Commission now deciding on fate of Munn Park Confederate Monument. 67 individuals signed in to speak to the Commission a few left before being called. The tally: 44 in favor of moving, 16 keep it where it is, 2 asked for people’s vote. #lkld
— City of Lakeland (@lakelandgov) December 4, 2017
Among the speakers who want the statue to stay in Munn Park, most said it should be respected as a monument to fallen war veterans. Only a few mentioned the proposal to add other monuments to Lakeland’s history and diversity, which was a main feature of the resolution that had been placed on the commission’s agenda.
That resolution, which would have preserved the statue, grew out of a proposal suggested three months by community volunteer Ashley Troutman.
Many who want to see the statue stay viewed Troutman’s idea as a creative compromise, but a few people who spoke today said a collection of monuments would make it difficult to hold gatherings in Munn Park.
Yates failed to get a second today when she made a motion to adopt the resolution based on Troutman’s proposal.
With Malless, Selvage, Wiggs and Yates exiting the commission at the end of the month, the next group of commissioners will decide where to move the statue and how to fund its relocation.
Wiggs said that under commission precedent, the issue can’t be reconsidered for a year unless it is brought up by someone on the prevailing side — in this case, Troller or Walker.
Selvage told commissioners in August they could no longer ignore the monument issue after cities throughout the South began discussing Confederate monuments in the wake of the Charlottesville killing. He said today that as a war veteran he had previously supported keeping the statue in place, but his thinking evolved during the last two years as he realized how divisive it had become.
WATCH: Replay the meeting. The discussion about the Confederate monument istarts at 1:43:20 and ends at 5:40.
A recap of comments from speakers and commissioners:
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