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Some Residents Upset By Plan To Relocate Lakeland Confederate Monument

When Lakeland resident Judy Smith walks by Munn Park she isn't bothered by the 26-foot tall Confederate Monument.

She's heard other people say it is racist or that it symbolizes slavery. But when Smith looks at the Confederate soldier on top of the marble memorial, that's not what she sees.

"I see history," Smith said. "And this was the original intent of the Daughters of the Confederacy. You can bring your kid here and teach them about another time."

Smith was one of about a hundred people who attended a rally Saturday to protest the city's decision to move the monument.

The Lakeland City Commission voted in December to move it. They're expected to decide how to pay for the move and where to put the monument at the May 7 meeting. Veterans Memorial Park and Roselawn Cemetery have been proposed as two sites where the statue could reside.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue in 1910, dedicating it to Confederate veterans.

City Commissioner Michael Dunn spoke at the rally. He said he would vote against any use of taxpayer money to have the statue moved.

"I actually have ancestors who fought in the Confederacy," he said. "I see it as a monument to their service, plain and simple."

Other speakers included Ed Shoemaker, who is running to replace outgoing Republican U.S. Representative Dennis Ross, and Mike McCalister, a Republican candidate for Florida Agriculture Commissioner.

In addition to protesting the removal of the Confederate memorial, the event was also billed as a celebration of the Second Amendment and a gathering to "prevent Sharia Law in our courts." Dunn donated a .38 Derringer pistol for a raffle.

Chistopher Rhoden, a lifelong resident of Lakeland, was the lone counter-protestor at the event. He held a sign that read "Our Heritage Is Hate."

Rhoden said he doesn't agree that Confederate soldiers should be honored and supports moving the monument.

"I just feel like the statue could be served somewhere better, maybe not in the center of the town square,” he said. "We can try to be more welcoming of people from all races, creeds and colors."

Moving the statue could cost the city more than $200,000. A final date for relocating it has not been set.

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.