Counties prepare for dueling rallies over Confederate monuments

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Counties across the Bay Area are grappling with the controversy over their Confederate monuments.

From Manatee to Hernando, and Hillsborough to Polk counties, demonstrators are showing up and so is law enforcement.

Hernando County's monument in downtown Brooksville became the target of online chatter this week. Rumors of a threat brought some with Confederate flags to defend the monument that stands in front of the courthouse.

But law enforcement got there first in hopes of having a peaceful evening Friday, which seemed to have been accomplished as of 10 p.m.

The flag under which Confederate soldiers fought was brought to the base of the monument dedicated to those soldiers.

“The citizens of this town do not want people from outside the town who do not live here, coming up in here and telling us what do or what we do not want,” Jason Sagar of Brooksville said.

Deputies and police heard the same online rumors, that Brooksville's Confederate monument would be targeted for removal at 6 p.m. Friday. County workers were sent home early. Police set up barricades and a road block.

“Anytime there is hate, it is usually, unfortunately, followed by violence,” Hernando County Sheriff Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.

Law enforcement in Hernando are prepared for what could be a long battle over a monument that has stood since 1916. The hope is to avoid what happened in Charlottesville, where debate turned deadly.

“If people want to take this monument down, that is their Republican right. But let’s do it through the legislative process,” Manatee County Commission Chair Betsy Benac said.

Benac called an emergency meeting for commissioners to discuss taking down their courthouse’s Confederate statue. After a Unity Rally was planned there for Monday, the Daughters of the Confederacy asked Commission to more the statue in order to keep it from being damaged.

They voted 4-2 to leave it in place.

In downtown Lakeland's Munn Park, officers guarded a statue of a monument to Confederates killed in action Friday, but no incidents were reported and no rallies are known to be in the works.