In a 3-to-2 vote Monday night, the St. Augustine City Commission approved a plan to move the Confederate monument in the Plaza de la Constitucion to the Trout Creek Fish Camp.
City Manager John Regan put forward the plan last week. Mayor Tracy Upchurch, Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman, and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline voted in favor of the move.
Commissioners Roxanne Horvath and John Valdes voted against it.
During more than an hour of public comment that preceded the vote, a handful of people spoke up in support of the City Commission’s previous decision to remove the monument from the Plaza de la Constitucion.
“That is an insult to me, it’s an insult to my family, it’s an insult to the African Americans who have contributed to this community for centuries,” said St. Augustine resident Richard White.
But the vast majority of speakers on Monday night voiced opposition to any plan that involved moving the Confederate War Memorial from its current location, where it has stood since 1879.
“There are a lot of things you probably haven’t seen,” said Luis Miguel, who also lives in St. Augustine. “But one thing you will see is a holy uprising of patriots, the likes of which have never been seen before. That’s going to happen if you even put a hand to the veterans’ memorial to take it down.”
Many even claimed that moving the monument would violate federal law, but City Attorney Isabelle Lopez told commissioners that is not the case.
“Monuments in public parks have been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be the government’s speech and that the government can choose how it speaks, when it speaks, and when it wishes to not speak any longer,” Lopez explained. “So I don’t believe that there’s any basis there for any sort of liability, in terms of federal law, for us moving the monument.”
Commissioner Valdes spoke before casting his votes against the move.
“Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville had its name changed. They didn’t bulldoze the high school. There’s a lot of name changing occurring, and justifiably so. This needs to happen because black lives do matter and we need to see change in this country,” he said. But, he continued, “Two wrongs don’t make a right here. There’s a lot of wrongs in our history. I think moving this and not repurposing it is another wrong.”
Following the vote, the city will loan the monument to Randy Ringhaver, the owner of the Trout Creek Fish Camp at 6550 State Road 13 N. in St. Augustine, who has offered to build a foundation for it and a park at his own expense.
The relocation is expected to be finished within three or four weeks.