Saying it’s time for Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to show leadership, the NAACP Florida State Conference is calling on the state to remove a Confederate memorial on the grounds of the state Capitol.
“We are demanding the Governor immediately remove all Confederate statues, flags and memorials from our State Capitol grounds in Tallahassee,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of NAACP Florida State Conference, in a statement released Tuesday morning.
Nweze is referring specifically to a monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers that sits on the grounds of the Capitol complex. There has been a growing chorus of protests over the past week from those who feel it’s presence on Capitol grounds is inappropriate.
The monument was dedicated in 1882 to Confederate soldiers from Leon County. The Civil War battles they fought in are listed on the four sides of the base.
Last week, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, an African-American who is a Democratic candidate for governor, called on Scott to remove the memorial.
But, the Department of Management Services, the state agency that maintains the Capitol grounds, says only the Legislature has the authority to order the monument removed.
“This monument is listed as a permanent exhibit of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum which is managed by the Florida Legislature,” the agency said in a statement. “The Department of Management Services would not take any action regarding the Florida Historic Capitol Museum or any of its monuments or exhibits without Legislative approval.”
Asked about the monument on Tuesday, Scott reiterated there is an established process that must be followed.
“We’re a democracy. Whether you’re talking about monuments or policy, some things are done locally, some things are done at the state level, some things are done at the federal level,” Scott said. “We need to allow that process to work. We need to allow everybody to engage that process. Then, as a society, to make a decision about how we continue.”
The Legislature is scheduled to go into session shortly after the first of the year. Asked if he would call a special session early to address the issue, Scott said the Legislature has the authority to call a special session if it wishes to take up the matter before the start of the regular session.
But, the NAACP Florida State Conference is focusing its efforts beyond the Confederate monument in Tallahassee. It’s calling for legislation to remove Confederate symbols on all public grounds across the state.
“We call on all members of the Florida Legislature to stand together and end the bigotry that has divided us for too long and support a bill banning all Confederate statues, flags and memorials from public grounds across the State of Florida,” Nweze added.
The NAACP’s call for a ban of Confederate symbols on all public grounds in Florida comes as local communities across the state wrestle with the issue of Confederate displays.
Protesters from both sides squared off in Bradenton Monday evening over a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the Manatee County historic courthouse.
A meeting has been called in St. Augustine to discuss the possible removal of Confederate statues in that city’s downtown.
More meetings and protests are likely to follow in the coming weeks and months.
“We’re a great melting pot. I think about 350,000 people moved here last year. About 100,000 moved from another country and we get along,” Scott said. “But, I think it’s incumbent upon every leader, you get elected, however you’re a leader in this state or in this country, you need to talk about love rather than hate. You need to bring people together and that includes the president and everybody else.”