Manatee Commission votes to remove Confederate statue

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The Confederate monument in front of the Manatee courthouse in Bradenton is moving.

On Monday, the site was overrun by protestors from both sides that nearly came to blows. On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission decided – by a single vote - to relocate the monument. The question now: where?

They have promised to look for a place that is equally prominent and respectful.

It took four hours to hash it out, and after what happened Monday, those who voted ‘yes’ didn't want to risk something worse.

Even though no punches were thrown during Monday's heated protests, the aftermath was felt inside the County Commission chambers.

“What am I supposed to do? Someone gets killed tomorrow, it'll be on my shoulders,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

Whitmore was part of the majority of four who ultimately supported the removal of the Confederate statue that has stood since 1924. Monday's protest featured heated arguments over history and the role of race in society. Several were arrested.

Commissioner Robin DiSabatino voted against removing the statue.

“Both sides are acting like spoiled brats, spoiled children, they all have to get their own way,” she said.

Commissioners heard testimony that guarding the protesters cost taxpayers up to $30,000. The four victorious commissioners were accused of rewarding bullies.

“What is next? And how do we stop those threats of violence? Do we continue to cave to them because it costs so much money?” DiSabatino asked.

But others made similar arguments as heard in other Tampa Bay counties where Confederate statues are being considered for removal: Confederate memorials are offensive.

“You are making a change in history for this country. Collective consciousness wants us to put racism in the past," a woman told the commissioners during public comment.

The commission agreed to start raising the $1,200 needed to move the statue, with sites discussed such as Veteran's Park in Bradenton and the Gamble State Park in Ellenton. The organizer of Monday's protest against the statue called this a satisfying moment.

“I don't want to fool people, mislead people into thinking racism is over now because a monument is moved. But it is definitely a good victory,” Black Lives Matter organizer Gregory Cruz said.

This has become such a touchy issue that one of the commissioners who was at Monday’s protest urged his colleagues to be extra careful about their own personal safety.

It is unclear when discussions will begin to remove the statue.