BRADENTON, Fla. -- A Confederate monument was taken down in the middle of the night. Manatee County commissioners voted to remove it earlier this week, but no one knew it would come down overnight and break in half.
Barbara Hemingway can’t believe what she's seeing.
“It's hard to fathom, very sad.” she says as she looks at the empty concrete slab where the monument stood.
She’s part of America First Team Manatee and fought to keep the 93-year-old Confederate monument honoring veterans.
“They have erased history,” says Hemingway.
Around 3:30 in the morning, county workers tried to quietly remove the pillar placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1924.
“We did that to avoid traffic it’s a large monument,” says Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator.
The same monument that raised safety concerns after a night of protests, county officials say, was also a safety hazard itself.
“It wasn’t attached to the base, truly amazing,” says Hunzeker. “When the contractor tried to lift it, it came apart, toppling. When it fell it cracked, but it’s a clean crack fairly easy to repair.”
Hemingway says the county was negligent in moving the monument.
“They didn’t hire professionals to do it," Hemmingway said. "It was an idiotic thing to do. They did it cowardly, in the middle of the night. They caved to threats from opposition groups and it won’t stop there."
Joshua Lilly, 29, from Bradenton says the monument never bothered him until recently.
“I never knew it was there, so I don’t miss it. I never paid attention to it, but what I do know that statue breathed ignorance and brought ignorance to a good community. I don’t miss it.”
Shawn Gettinger, 29, from Bradenton, says, “People focusing on the wrong thing. What they’re saying is caused by the statue is really in our hearts removing the statue not change that. People need to focus on changing their own heart."
The monument has been taken to an undisclosed but secure location behind a fence, and that’s where it’ll stay until the board of commissioners decides where to put it permanently.
Hunzeker says, “We’ll take the pieces to a permanent location where we’ll do a permanent fix.”
“I think it should go somewhere where it will be appreciated,” says Gettinger.
The county administrator says it cost nearly $13,000 to move, and while the county paid for it there's still fund raising needed to relocate and repair the monument.
As for those who wanted the monument to stay, they are looking at their legal options.
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