Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) criticized Jacksonville's mayor for removing a Confederate statue. DeSantis apparently slammed the decision during a 2024 presidential campaign rally in Ankeny, Iowa.
He slammed Democratic Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan for removing the Springfield Park “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy” monument. Deegan reportedly used the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and unidentified donations.
I oppose statue removal. Trying to erase history is unacceptable, DeSantis added. “You saw their attempt to overthrow Thomas Jefferson. They wanted to ban George Washington from schools.” DeSantis said, “It just gets so out of hand.”
"So I don't support taking down statues, especially without legal authority," he said. In his remarks, the governor condemned Deegan's office-only action without city council approval. Deegan said she didn't need city council consent since city monies were available.
«This is not an attempt to erase history but to show that we've learnt from it», Deegan remarked. “That knowing better helps us help each other. Today, I hope for our lovely city to embrace togetherness and bend history toward justice.”
Deegan said, “Let’s keep lifting as we climb.” Others were outraged by DeSantis' removal of the century-old women's memorial. The mayor was also accused of overstepping her powers.
Nick Howland, a Jacksonville Republican City Council member, labeled Deegan's actions “blatant overreach” and power abuse. “Deegan is our Mayor, not our Monarch,” he wrote on X. Waiting till dusk to demolish the Women of the South monument is overreach.”
“This was the Council’s decision,” Howland said. "Regardless of your opinion of the monument, this is power abuse and lack of transparency." Many people attacked Deegan for removing the Springfield Park “Women of the Southland” statue in addition to Howland.
Deegan stated that the Confederate women's memorial should be removed. She said she removed the statue with Jessie Ball duPont Fund money. Deegan also acknowledged to utilizing anonymous payments to 904WARD, a local racial justice group.
Despite the criticism, Deegan believes removing the statue was right. Symbols count. Deegan said they show the world our values and goals. Removal of the confederate monument from Springfield Park shows a conviction in our humanity.
That we are equal. We share body, bones, and blood, Deegan said. One heart and soul.” Besides the monument, the mayor removed plaques and engravings. Deegan will reportedly hide the removal with temporary plaques.
Two Confederate statue protection measures were introduced in the Florida House and Senate. The proposals aim to penalize authorities who remove Confederate statues. Lawmakers submitted SB 1122 the day following Deegan's declaration, imposing a $1,000 punishment.
In contrast, 2023 HB 395 proposes a $5,000 fine. Neither law could retrospectively penalize a city official like Deegan.
This story was first reported here.