Repeal Florida laws honoring Confederate flag/Holiday & Rename Confederate State Park

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The Civil War essentially ended on April 9, 1865 with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Today, this war continues as a battle of symbols, ideas, and stories rooted in the nostalgia of white supremacy and power afforded by American slavery.  

Now it is time to move past the Confederacy and its associated symbols of treason, terrorism, and white supremacy that have divided this nation for over 150 years. The war is over. The South as it was will never rise again. It is time to stop taxpayer and legislative support for Confederate memorials, holidays, and symbols. 

Three distinct Florida statutes memorializing the Confederacy remain in the law books: 

1. Florida Statutes Chapter 683.01 maintains Confederate Memorial Day as a legal holiday;

2. Florida Statutes Chapter 256.051 prohibits mutilation of Confederate flag and emblem, reading:
 “It shall also be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to mutilate, deface, defile, or contemptuously abuse the flag or emblem of Florida or the flag or emblem of the Confederate States by any act whatever”; 

3. Florida Statutes 256.10 reinforces regard for symbols of the Confederacy, stating: 
“No person shall publicly mutilate, deface, defile, defy, trample upon, or by word or act cast contempt upon the flags of the Confederacy, or replicas thereof, for crass or commercial purposes.”

The fact that such language remains written into law speaks to the state of Florida’s complicity in supporting, protecting, and promoting Confederate symbols and memorials at the expense of support for the African American community and progress in the wider American society. We petition the state of Florida to disengage and repeal these divisive pro-Confederate statutes.

Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

Like Confederate flags, monuments and memorials to the Confederate States or its officers continue to distort history and act as visual terrorism and white supremacy in the context of African American culture. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 1,700 monuments to the Confederacy still stand, with 26 throughout Florida. While many of these memorials exist in public spaces, the majority of sponsors are private groups, except for in a few cases. 

The State of Florida maintains a confederate memorial under the guise of a state park in Manatee County. Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park was dedicated in 1925, deeded to the state of Florida as a historic site by the Judah P Benjamin Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, a group that is still active and maintains headquarters at the state park. In the near-century since the state’s assumption of this property, the equivalent of over $250,000 (adjusted for inflation) has been appropriated from state funds for its renovation and upkeep.

Judah P. Benjamin was Attorney General, Secretary of War and  Secretary of State of the Confederacy. He was considered the "brains of the Confederacy". After the war ended, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest, and Benjamin fled to Florida where he supposedly hid at Gamble Plantation--a sugarcane plantation with an estimated 200 enslaved people working 3,500 acres-- before departing from Sarasota en route to England. He is no hero, yet the Gamble Plantation, now as a state park, has become a shrine to him at the bidding of the United Daughters of Confederacy with the support of the Division of Recreation and Parks of the Department of Environmental Protection. We petition that Judah P. Benjamin be de-memorialized at the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park by renaming the site, re-contextualizing the Confederacy in the language of its markers, and creating a space on this former plantation to memorialize the enslaved victims who were bonded to this land.

In conclusion, if we are as a state and as a nation to move forward together in a spirit of healing, community, and respect, we must confront the symbols, laws, and memorials that have facilitated a culture of segregation, racism, and white supremacy. And so, with this in mind, we petition the State of Florida to repeal the statutes protecting Confederate symbols and flags, repeal the State sanctioned Confederate Memorial Day and rename and re-contextualize the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park out of recognition of the horrific legacy of American Slavery and the journey towards a more inclusive and socially just society.