Save Southern Heritage FL asked Orlando’s mayor and commissioners Tuesday to let voters decide the fate of the controversial statue in Lake Eola Park.
The day before, Mayor Buddy Dyer approved a plan to relocate the statue to Greenwood Cemetery after an Orlando resident complained that it was a symbol of racism and white supremacy. Most the council, four out of seven, agreed, despite protests from Confederate groups and historical associations.
Dyer told the standing-room-only crowd that “some, like myself, see them (War Memorials) as historical markers dedicated to men who died during a war.”
“But at the same time Mayor Dyer also suggested he intended to use his sole executive authority to move the monument into a city graveyard – out of sight of the public “in the closet” so to speak, to placate critics of the war memorial who in the same City Council meeting trotted out the same old tired argument that the Veterans memorial is a symbol of slavery and, so, deserves to be purged,” said David McCallister, SSH FL spokesman, in a statement released Tuesday.
Dyer allowed all 54 people who wanted a say in the matter to speak during Monday’s marathon, five-hour city council meeting. The majority spoke in favor of leaving the statue in the park, where it has sat for a century.
David Porter, who raised the issue in a video he posted on YouTube, told commissioners that he supported the mayor’s idea and said the statue should be “placed among veterans who saluted that cause.”
Porter, a former member of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, refuted protestors claims that the Civil War was not about slavery. He added that the statue was moved to Lake Eola Park in 1917, just three years before the lynching of July Perry, a black man killed after attempting to vote in Ocoee. He said 34 black men were lynched from 1877 to 1950.
“This is not ancient history,” said the owner of David Porter Communications in Pine Castle.
After the meeting, the mayor estimated it would cost $120,000 to repair the aging statue and move it to the cemetery, which has a special section for Civil War veterans. The statue will be X-rayed to determine if structural repairs are needed then funding specifics can be made, according to Cassandra Lafser, the mayor’s press secretary.
The mayor had no comment on Save Southern Heritage Fl’s call for a vote on the statue’s future.
The city has been caught in a national controversy about what to do with aging war memorials. Efforts died this Legislative Session to name a replacement for a statue of a Confederate general representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol.
One bill was filed to name educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, while another would have selected a likeness of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place. Neither was acted on this year.