Manatee Co. monument brings protesters Monday night

- Two people were taken into custody after a protest over a Confederate statue in downtown Bradenton.

Several groups clashed at the Manatee County Courthouse on Monday, several days after the statue was ordered to be boarded up by the County Commission.

"They just feel compelled to have to defend this Confederate flag and they feel like somehow it's tied into their pride which is so far from the truth," said Gregory Cruz of Black Lives Matter, an organizer of the protest.

During the dueling rallies, there were attempts to burn flags, insults flew back and forth, and arguments over who knew their history better.

One side insisted the statue, which was built in 1924 by Daughters of the Confederacy, must be taken down. They say the Confederate flag on the base has been co-opted by white supremacists.

Another side insists the statue is harmless, that it honors those who fought for their beliefs.

"The [county commissioners] don't have any guts," said Willie Orr of Bradenton. "That thing has been here 93 years, and they are going to move that thing just because of a few people here."

Manatee County commissioners agreed last week to encase the statue in wood to protect it until a decision is made. Built in 1924 by Daughters of the Confederacy, it includes a Confederate flag on the base.

Those against the statue equated supporters with the KKK and Nazis.

"I was hoping this would be more of a peaceful demonstration that there would be some kind of as pro and con discussion," said Anita Rogers of Bradenton. "I am a little disappointed it's just noise."

The rally stopped traffic downtown as deputies tried to keep as many people away as possible.

Several businesses closed up shop early for safety reasons.

"It saddens me because we are better than this," said Orr. "If we can't be better than this, how can we help other countries and help other cities and help ourselves?"

Commissioners expect to discuss the issue during the regular meeting on Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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