Bill would protect historical monuments, memorials in Florida, including those honoring Confederates

Bill would protect historical monuments, memorials in Florida, including those honoring Confederates

(As originally published with additional photos, Mon, November 13th 2023, 4:44 PM EST)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (TND) — Protecting the state’s history, or those who tried to break up the U.S. and lost the Civil War?

Those are two ways to look at a controversial bill introduced to the Florida House of Representatives called the “Historical Monuments and Memorials Protection Act.”

There would be several requirements placed on local officials if it’s passed, including “requiring public display of a specified statue.”

Historical Monuments and Memorials Protection Act by Lenny Cohen on Scribd

The 10 pages specify in detail how no person or entity could remove a display on public property, and there would be no signs or other objects allowed on or adjacent to displays, even if they’re educational.

The displays don’t even have to be in Florida, since the state would “actively work to protect and preserve a monument or memorial anywhere in the United States which has the state seal, the name of the state, or a direct connection with state history.”

If that happens, not only could the municipality be sued for damages, but there would be civil penalties up to $5,000 for officials who allow it, along with their removal from office. Plus, the state could pay to restore monuments and memorials in certain circumstances.

The bill says, “An accurate and factual history belongs to all Floridians and future generations, and the state has an obligation to protect and preserve such history.”

Therefore, “The state preempts any local elected officials who may be swayed by undue influence by groups who may feel offended or hurt by certain actions in the history of the state or the nation.”

Whether or not the figure being honored by the statue or monument was themselves honorable is not required in the legislation.

Bill would protect historical monuments, memorials in Florida, including those honoring Confederates
FILE – A state representative wants the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith that hung in the U.S. Capitol to be put on display in Florida. (WEAR file)

Not only would the proposed law be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, but the bill specifically mentions one particular statue that stood representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol for nearly a century.

That statue was one honoring Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, which was not named in the text of the legislation.

Under the provisions in the bill, the state of Florida would be forced to “determine an appropriate location for viewing” and pay “all costs of removing the statue transporting the statue to its future location, removing the statue from the transport, and placing the statue on a suitable pedestal inside a structure that provides protection from the weather,” if one person who “was awarded the right to exhibit the statue cannot locate a suitable site.”

Smith escaped to Mexico and Cuba to avoid arrest for treason but was able to return to the U.S. and take an oath of amnesty.

Last year, it was replaced by one of legendary civil-rights activist and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, after a request by Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., back in 2019.

The lawmaker who filed the bill is State Rep. Dean Black, R-Jacksonville, whose campaign website says at the top, “Northeast Florida needs strong, proven and dependable conservative leaders fighting for our values in Tallahassee.”

He filed the bill last Thursday, two days before Veterans Day.

It also says Black is an 8th generation Northeast Florida native.

Florida is the state with new education standards that suggest Black slaves benefited from skills used in forced labor.

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