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Fight over Florida Confederate monument goes to federal court

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

Save Southern Heritage, a southern history and heritage group, will have a chance in April to present its argument for why Lakeland officials should have left the 109-year-old monument in Munn Park.

Staff for David McCallister, an attorney representing the Confederate rights group, confirmed that oral arguments in the federal lawsuit are scheduled for the week of April 20 in the 11th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The commissioners were a little too quick to be moving the monument before the lawsuit is over,” McCallister previously told The Ledger. “It’s not over till it’s over, and it’s not over yet.”

The lawsuit, originally filed in November 2018, claims the statue should have been protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

First, it claims the successors of the United Daughters of the Confederacy who paid $1,550 to erect the statute in 1910 had a right to see it legally protected where it stood in Munn Park, the town square, under the protection of free speech.

The second argument to be made is whether Lakeland officials tried to circumvent the will of taxpayers. The Confederate rights group alleges the commission’s decision to use red-light camera funds to move the statue after a campaign to raise private donations failed represents a violation of their initial pledge to residents.

Kevin Cook, Lakeland’s spokesman, said city officials will not comment on the pending lawsuit.

Save Southern Heritage tried but unsuccessfully attempted to get an emergency restraining order to prevent the relocation of the monument from Munn Park to Veterans Memorial Park, adjacent to the RP Funding Center, in March 2019.

If successful, the group intends to ask judges to order the memorial be moved back to Munn Park. McCallister asserted the city would have to pay for any costs, again, at the taxpayers’ expense.

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at swalsh@theledger.com or 863-802-7545.

This story originally published to newschief.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.