Mayor Buckhorn on Confederate statue: 'Not in my city'

- It started with a challenge: Raise the Confederate statue-relocation funds in one month.  But all it took was one day.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Commissioners said if the community couldn’t come up with the rest of the funds in 30 days, the downtown Tampa statue stays.  Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn was one of the first to issue his donation – totaling $1,000 – and challenged others in the community to pitch in on Thursday.

The mayor has been outspoken on the matter in the past and supported the removal of it. He visited Good Day Tampa Bay on Friday morning to discuss the latest developments of Confederate monuments locally and nationally.

“I could not have been prouder of this community,” Buckhorn said. “Our sports teams, Coach Dungy, Bob Gries, and the thousands of people who sent from a dollar to $500, who stood up and said, “Not on my watch.” They told the County Commission, ‘If you don’t have the moral courage to do the right thing, we do.’”

Buckhorn said the statue represents, “everything that is wrong about the South and the Confederacy and the Civil War at that period of time.”

He doesn’t think county commissioners will try to add a roadblock to the removal. Their most recent decision was the third within three months of commissioners going back and forth on the issue.

“It will go to a cemetery where those people who care about this will have the opportunity to visit,” Buckhorn said, “but it will not be on the public square and the young kids of color will not have to walk past that statue and ask somebody what that means.”

One of his biggest concerns was a repeat of the Charlottesville violence to occur in Tampa. When he learned of the escalation on Saturday, he said he immediately texted Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward to get a plan in place to prevent the same from happening locally.

“Our police department will not stand back when violence occurs,” he told anchor Russell Rhodes. “I don’t care what side of the issue you are on. You are not going to inflict violence on someone else. You’re not going to destroy public property. You are welcome to express yourself and your First Amendment rights but once you cross that line, we are coming to get you.”

Another concern was whether the growing issue of Confederate monuments would affect the city gaining any new business, such as conventions and sports tournaments.

“There is no company in America that wants to move its employees to a city where symbols of hate, bigotry and racism stand towering over the courthouse steps where people go for justice,” Buckhorn said. “Not in my city.”

Read the full transcript of the mayor’s answers during Friday morning’s interview:

I recognize that there are different opinions on this. There are heated opinions about this. There is an appropriate place for these statues, but it’s not on the public square because it stands as a symbol of hate, it stands as a symbol of division, it stands as a symbol of treason, it is not about the valor of those Confederate soldiers. It is about a time and a place in our country where African Americans were persecuted, where Jews were persecuted, where Catholics were persecuted. That doesn’t represent who we are Russell and I could not have been prouder of this community, our sports teams, coach Dungy, Bob Gries, and the thousands of people who sent from a dollar to $500, who stood up and said not on my watch.

They told the county commission, "if you don’t have the moral courage to do the right thing, we do."

I have no doubt that it would have effected (business for conventions and sports tournaments). I mean look at what happened in North Carolina, look at what is about to happen in Texas, when they pass legislation that persecutes certain members of our community. There is no company in America that wants to move its employees to a city where symbols of hate, bigotry and racism stand towering over the courthouse steps where people go for justice. They want to know, Russell, that their employees choose to relocate to this community will be treated with fairness and dignity regardless of your station in life, regardless of who you love, regardless of the God you worship.

That symbol, separating the historic significance, represents everything that is wrong about the South and the Confederacy and the Civil War at that period of time, and it is unfortunate that we have a President that has doubled down in support of these hate groups and using the code whistles and the dog whistles of venom and hatred have empowered neo-Nazis, these bigots in bedsheets, the Klu Klux Klan to now walk the streets of our city. Not in my city.

I was in New Orleans Saturday with a group of mayors. We were all on our phones watching what was happening in Charlottesville, knowing full well that on any given day particularly with flash points like these statues that this can happen in our community.

I immediately sent a text to our police chief, “Let’s start preparation. Let’s make sure our plans are in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen in our city.” and I can promise you this Russell our police department will not stand back when violence occurs. We will react aggressively. We will remove people surgically. But I don’t care what side of the issue you are on, you are not gonna inflict violence on someone else, you’re not gonna destroy public property, you are welcome to express yourself and your First Amendment rights but once you cross that line, we are coming to get you.

I think the county commission got a painful lesson and that is if you don’t do the right thing this community will. I will find it hard to imagine that they would put another roadblock like they did on Wednesday in the way of the successful move of this statue. It will go to a cemetery where those people who care about this will have the opportunity to visit, but it will not be on the public square and the young kids of color will not have to walk past that statue and ask somebody what that means, and why is it that somebody would hate me because I happen to be black.

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