Florida

One city official’s solution for Confederate statue debate? Give them all to his town

By Greg Hadley

ghadley@mcclatchy.com

A Confederate statue is shown outside a Hillsborough County building Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. County Commissioners are meeting about the possible removal of the statue.
A Confederate statue is shown outside a Hillsborough County building Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. County Commissioners are meeting about the possible removal of the statue. AP

A Eustis, Florida, politician is under fire from some after he took to Facebook to suggest that cities and counties struggling to decide what to do with statues and monuments for Confederate officials should donate them to his city.

Anthony Sabatini a city commissioner for Eustis, wrote on Facebook on Thursday that “any cities or counties that would like to donate their Confederate monuments” should give them to Eustis.

“We will gladly accept and proudly display our nation's history. Thank you,” Sabatini wrote.

To any cities or counties that would like to donate their Confederate monuments to the City of Eustis, we will gladly accept and proudly display our nation's history. Thank you.

Posted by Anthony Sabatini, Eustis City Commissioner Seat #2 on Thursday, August 17, 2017

As of Friday evening, Sabatini’s post has been shared more than 500 times and generated nearly 200 comments. It has also received an official response from the town’s Facebook page, which clarified that Sabatini does not speak for the city government as a whole.

“The Eustis City Commission has taken no formal action regarding Confederate statues. The statements made by Commissioner Sabatini were as an individual,” the statement read.

Confederate Statues:The Eustis City Commission has taken no formal action regarding Confederate statues. The statements...

Posted by Eustis, Florida - America's Hometown on Thursday, August 17, 2017

However, Sabatini has not backed down from his proposal, telling WESH that he doesn’t think the statues “should be thrown in the garbage.”

Eustis’s mayor, Robert Morin, voiced strong opposition to the idea, however.

“Personally I'm appalled ... that would happen. I don't think that's a good idea for us to bring a national agenda item to the small city of Eustis,” Morin told WESH.

The issue of Confederate statues and monuments has become a hot-button topic in the U.S. over the past week after white nationalists and counter demonstrators clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park. One person was killed in Charlottesville after an alleged white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counter protesters.

Since then, numerous cities across the country from Washington state to Florida have removed or debated the removal of statues of Confederate-era officials in public places. The New York Times is keeping a running tally of all the monuments that are removed. According to FiveThirtyEight, there are still more than 700 Confederate monuments in the U.S.

But in Lake County, Florida, where Eustis is located, there are none, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and multiple other commissioners in Eustis said they did not support Sabatini’s proposal, making it extremely unlikely that it will become reality.

“I am insulted,” Commissioner Linda Bobb, who is African-American, told the Sentinel. “I will do everything I can to make sure it never happens.”

But Sabatini insisted to the Daily Commercial and WESH that he is not attempting to glorify the Confederacy with his proposal, merely preserve history.

“I just believe it's a knee jerk reaction on behalf of a lot of spineless people who don't care about history," Sabitini told WESH.

“They represent a palpable example of a tragedy of American History, but we shouldn’t be ashamed they existed. Keeping them is not glorifying the South. Most of them represent dead soldiers,” Sabatini told the Daily Commercial. “And as much as their cause was wrong and unjust, we shouldn’t destroy them or put them away in storage somewhere or in a museum. We can’t leave the lesson they teach up to a sterile textbook.”

But Morin told the Daily Commercial that Sabatini’s proposal needlessly stirs up trouble and will likely force the city commission to debate it instead of devoting time to more serious, local issues.

“It’s a situation that didn’t need to be created. It takes away from discussion about things like public safety, our budget and other local municipal matters that directly affect our citizens. Bringing a national issue before the commission to be discussed is not appropriate. It’s just not our purview,” Morin told the Daily Commercial.

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