Declaring that City Hall can no longer wish away the divisive issue of the Confederate monument in Munn Park, Don Selvage said today he will open a discussion with his fellow city commissioners at their meeting on Monday.

Selvage said at this morning’s meeting of the Downtown Development Authority, where he is the City Commission representative, that he knows the issue is highly emotional and an eventual decision either to keep the monument in place or move it somewhere else would anger a large number of residents.

But he said the attention to Confederate monuments since last week’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., forces Lakeland commissioners to confront the issue: “I intend to tell my colleagues Monday we can’t keep our heads in the sand.”

He asked other LDDA board members whether they wanted to advise the commission on the issue, but the consensus of the group was to first poll their constituents, downtown property owners, on the issue.

The monument featuring an anonymous rebel soldier was dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910. Its inscription reads in part: “The heroic deeds will never fade, from memory’s brightest page, and their brave defense of country and home, is left as a glorious heritage.”

Commissioners brushed aside requests to move the monument made by residents in September 2015 and July 2016. During those discussions, no commissioner spoke in favor of moving the statue.

However, the commission rebuked a citizen proposal in May that would have made it more difficult to move or alter a monument. That proposed ordinance would have required public hearings before changes could be made, but commissioners said that their current procedures already ensure public hearings.

Selvage said he first heard the issue raised a few years ago when a Massachusetts man wrote a letter saying his son was impressed with Florida Southern College during a campus tour but decided against attending after seeing the Confederacy glorified downtown.

Last year, Selvage received a letter from a resident who wished to remain anonymous who offered to build a performance pavilion in the center of Munn Park that would require moving the monument. The commissioners, noting that they received emotional letters and emails to preserve the statue, concluded the time wasn’t right to open debate on emotionally charged issues involving the appropriate way to portray the Confederacy.

While Selvage told LDDA board members today that he didn’t think either side of the monument debate would be satisfied with a “middle ground” approach, he offered a few compromise options after the meeting:

  • An African-American minister suggested that a cultural heritage walk be created downtown that would include artwork celebrating a variety of ethnic groups who contributed to Lakeland’s development.
  • Add a plaque to the monument explaining background, including that the soldier faces east as a sign of conciliation rather than north as a sign of defiance and that he stands at parade rest, not military readiness.

The commissioner said he was encouraged that a solution might be found after he received a phone call from a past president of the Daughters of the American Revolution who said she’d support moving the statue to a place where it would be shown respect.

(In Tampa, the president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Florida Division recently told Fox 13 News she supports moving the monument her organization erected at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in 1911.)

While many people have suggested moving the statue to Veterans Park west of the RP Funding Center, Selvage doesn’t think that site is appropriate. Veterans Park is built on land where the predominantly African-American community of Moorehead existed before the RP Funding Center was built during the early 1970s, he explained.

Selvage said as the son of somebody who fought the Nazis during World War II, he was shocked to see images of young neo-Nazis inciting violence in Charlottesville during protests of the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Some people are urging city commissioners to “leave the issue alone,” Selvage said, but after last week’s violence in Charlottesville, “that’s no longer an option.”

* * *

In a related story, Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said his department is taking seriously a message that appears to be from the hacker group Anonymous asking people to “tear down symbols of hate” at 11 locations including Munn Park.

LPD officers have monitored Munn Park closely in recent days and will have an officer on hand at 6 p.m. Friday, the time specified in the online post, Giddens said.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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10 Comments

  1. Actually, at the time the statue was erected, the land at the SW gate on Lime was a small cemetery. Three headstones remain and putting the statue near them could be, in effect, returning the statue to some who placed it in Munn Park.

    Roselawn Cemetery already has a small statue to Confederate War dead, and would no doubt welcome another.

    As for the historic significance of the statue: “McNeel and Muldoon, as well as numerous other monument companies, marketed the standing soldier (or the “parade-rest soldier,” as it was described) to UDC chapters across America, offering them a cheap, idealized, and ready-made manifestation of the very mythos that the UDC was seeking to simultaneously preserve and spread.”

    http://jezebel.com/confederate-monuments-arent-history-theyre-a-cheap-cul-1797854438

  2. This statue does not belong in our public square or any public space in the United States of America. The Daughter’s of the Confederacy never should have been allowed to place it there in 1910. Regardless of positioning, this representative of one of our country’s darkest times was fighting on the wrong side of history. I moved my family to Lakeland because of its idyllic beauty, it’s rich historic neighborhoods and old homes, and diverse community, but have to admit that seeing this statue in Munn Park gave me pause even before the recent events in Charlottesville. Whether they knew it or not, soldiers of the Confederacy were not fighting on the right side of humanity.

  3. Don’t cave on this issue. Be brave and stand firm. Please don’t move this statue that has been a part on my life since I was a little girl. I never even thought anything about who this was, why it was there or anything about the life of this soldier. It’s just a beautiful statue in the middle of the downtown. Leave it alone.

    1. Actually the war was over southern ports that the north wanted. Wake up people, the north just used the the slave issue as a front to kill thousands of people(including what people called slaves). U think black people were the only slaves??? There were endentured servants from all countries before black slaves which is how AMERICA came about!!! Dont forget about the Indians who were here first…..Dont hear them crying about stuff….Get a grip people!!! Leave AMERICA’S history alone!!!! Things are only offensive to people who are dont have anything else to do. If u dont want to look at something go elsewhere where there’s something u like to look at….Stop creating discontent in America..we need to get together and protect our country not tear it apart!!!!

  4. The Democrats are desperately trying to escape their racist past by burying any reference to events they created.
    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
    George Orwell, 1984

  5. Statues of Confederate heroes are just a red herring. If you removed every statue in America they would just find something else to pivot their agenda on. What would be next? This whole thing is perpetrated primarily by those who are trying to destroy Trump and the Trump agenda by creating chaos and anarchy and division. Don’t fall for it Lakeland! If you want to move the statue in order to provide a Podium or some other Civic benefit to the park and place the statue in a respected place that people could agree to that’s one thing, but if we are being pressured to make a decision at this time to move the statue because of the demands of the left and some blacks and northern liberals who can’t get over themselves, I say defiantly, leave it where it is.

  6. I commend commissioner Selvage for suggesting we should bring it up debate it and put it to rest. Otherwise it will be a nagging issue that will be a distraction from what we need to be focused on for a long time. If you have a public meeting it should be limited to citizens of Lakeland with a strong police presence as it is highly probable that outside agitators would show up to disrupt things. As a citizen of Lakeland I would be there and would like to speak and express a rational point of view… A pragmatic view of the best use of property, respecting the past, but resisting the sanitizing of History. We don’t need to re litigate the Civil War, try to erase its memory, or disrespect those on either side who fought for what they believed was in their best interest at the time. Now we are all Americans and we need to pull together and unite against those who would do us harm and destroy our culture and civilization, both externally and internally.

  7. The Mayor and city council had a chance to finally put an end to this debate when a historical group came before them in May, 2017. The Ordinance that was suggested was to safe guard all military monuments and first responders. Even Tampa passed the Ordinance, however too late to safe guard their monument. Mr. Salvage was very vocal on the Ordinance stating it was only about the Confederate monument and it was the will of the people to choose if it was to be removed or stay. The city council sat on the fence and chose to put Lakeland and it’s citizen in harms way when the radical groups descend on our city. On August 18th the police department received word of a possible attempt to vandalize the monument and our Lakeland Police Department were very visible that day. On this very passionate subject, if violence erupts in Lakeland it will be due to the Mayor and city council who ignored a way to protect the monument and her citizens.

    The history of the Lakeland’s monument is in 1906 Judge Epps Tucker secured 100 names, one being a Union Veteran, and presented the offer to the City Commission and was granted to be place it in Munn Park.

    Regarding the UDC Florida president speaking to the media regarding moving the monuments, that is her opinion, not the UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY. No one can speak for that organization but the President General, and she has not spoken on this issue. Their goals and objectives are the Historical, Educational, Benevolent, Memorial and Patriotic. Ms. Ginger Rudiger of Florida Division stated it was her opinion. It does not line up with the goals and objectives of UDC. She has her right to voice her opinions, but she also has the right to be wrong.

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