A little more than a month after Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan removed a Confederate monument from Springfield Park, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s strongly opposed to taking down any historical monuments in the state.
DeSantis was asked during a Thursday morning news conference in Jacksonville about controversial proposed Florida legislation that would block cities and counties from removing or relocating Confederate monuments.
“I have not seen the legislation, but I’ve been very clear ever since I’ve been governor: I do not support taking down monuments in this state. We’ve got to stop with this, OK. You know, it’s like, you learn from history,” DeSantis said. “They’ll say, Oh, well…they just didn’t want some Civil War general or whatever. And then now that’s turned into taking down Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, taking Washington’s name off schools. That is, it is nuts.”
DeSantis was referring to the removal of a bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback and flanked by a Native American man and an African man, which was removed from the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 2022. In 2021, there was a plan to remove the names of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and other prominent figures, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, from 44 San Francisco public schools, but that plan was scrapped after intense criticism.
DeSantis said he’s also heard that people in Jacksonville want to take down the Andrew Jackson statue in downtown Jacksonville.
“What — are you going to rename the city? I mean, come on. We’ve got to stop doing this,” DeSantis said. “If you’re going to apply some type of hyper-woke 21st-century test to past people, you’re gonna run into turbulence with MLK Jr., you’re gonna run into turbulence with a lot of people, and it’s like, is that really how we view history? No, history is what it is. You learn from it, and then you try to do the best you can going forward. So, I’m 100% against removing the monuments. I think it’s just gone too far.”
The bill filed in Tallahassee in November would prohibit local governments from permanently removing historic monuments and memorials on public property. It would open up local officials who remove monuments to civil penalties and lawsuits, allowing plaintiffs to collect three times what it would cost to return or replace a monument that had been taken down, as well as possible punitive damages.
Rep. Dean Black of Northeast Florida, a Republican, is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
Mayor Deegan, on the other hand, has supported the idea of removing Confederate monuments.
“This is not in any way an attempt to erase history but to show that we’ve learned from it — that when we know better, we do better by and for each other,” Deegan said following the removal of the statue in Jacksonville. “My prayer today is for our beautiful city to continue embracing unity and bending the arc of history toward justice. Let’s keep lifting as we climb.”
Deegan said the Women of the Southern Confederacy monument in Springfield Park was erected in 1915 during the peak of early 20th-century Confederate monument-building, part of a widespread campaign to promote and justify Jim Crow laws in the South and intimidate African Americans.
“Symbols matter. They tell the world what we stand for and what we aspire to be,” Deegan said in a statement. “By removing the Confederate monument from Springfield Park, we signal a belief in our shared humanity. That we are all created equal. The same flesh and bones. The same blood running through our veins. The same heart and soul.”