North Florida county votes to move Confederate monument

PALATKA, Fla. (AP) — A small Florida county will move its monument honoring Confederate soldiers from its spot in front of the courthouse.

The Putnam County Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to move the statue, using private donations, but did not decide when or where it will be moved. A public committee will be appointed to make recommendations.

The monument consists of a Confederate soldier standing with a rifle atop a an approximately 20-foot (6-meter) granite base. It was erected in 1924 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, 59 years after the Civil War ended.

The commission’s options were to move the statue, leave it or put the matter to a public vote. All five members are white. The northeast Florida county has about 70,000 residents.

“We need to do something other than kick the can down the road,” Commission Chairman Terry Turner said. “Are we going to make everybody happy? No we are not.”

The commission rejected putting a referendum on the ballot because of the county’s demographics. The statue is in the county seat Palatka — its population is 43% Black. The rest of the county is 80% white.

“Have empathy for those that are hurt and stop calling names,” Palatka resident Tommy Rodgers said during the online meeting. “The courthouse is not the place to stand up for the Confederacy. We know that if it goes to a vote it’s going to be voted down, let’s just say it.”

But another Palatka resident, Jessie Spivey, told the Palatka Daily News she wanted the proposal put up for a countywide vote. She and about 20 others had gathered outside the courthouse during the commission meeting to protest the possible move.

“It’s not Black or white, it’s right or wrong,” Spivey said. “I’m not racist. This monument has been here for a long time and not caused a problem.”

The decision came weeks after nearby St. Augustine also voted to move its Confederate memorial.