Posted on February 5, 2023

Manatee County Ditches Plan to Restore Confederate Monument—for Now

Isaac Eger, Sarasota Magazine, February 1, 2023

Bradenton this week narrowly escaped becoming the first city in the United States to restore a fallen Confederate monument.

The monument in question, a concrete obelisk engraved with the names of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, was taken down from its place in front of the downtown Bradenton courthouse in the summer of 2017 after backlash from local protests that proclaimed it celebrated a shameful period of American history. The space has stood empty ever since.

However, last month, the Manatee County Commission decided to take a vote on whether to take the monument out of storage and put it back in front of the courthouse—a plan that was estimated to cost taxpayers $40,000. The vote was scheduled to take place this Tuesday, but, last week, with no explanation, the item was taken off the commission’s agenda.

That didn’t stop citizens from showing up to the Tuesday meeting to voice their outrage. During the public comment portion of the meeting, a dozen different people took to the microphone to castigate the commission for even considering putting the monument back up.

Many were concerned that the agenda item would be resurrected at a later date. Others were angry that the item was taken off the schedule, because they had planned to take off work for that morning to speak about the topic. Another reminded the commission of the insult of holding such a vote the day before Black History Month began.

“I know that your immediate needs are met,” said Ruth Beltran. “You probably live in nice houses and drive nice cars. But that’s not the reality for this community. Me being here is a waste of our time. We already removed that monument back in 2017. When 2,000 children are houseless in your community, this is the best use of time and money that you can think of? That’s shameful.”

Another speaker asked for the resignation of Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who supported voting on the restoration of the monument. She is also the only commissioner still on the board from when the monument was taken down, an action she voted against. (Baugh was not present at Tuesday’s meeting and did not respond to requests for an interview.)

After public comment concluded, Commissioner George Kruse addressed the issue. “I’m hoping that was just people coming to a realization that 99.9999 percent of the comments were negative against it,” he said. Kruse said he voted against entertaining the agenda item and would vote against restoring the monument.

On a phone call, Kruse told me he was disappointed that this discussion was held at all.


Commissioner Amanda Ballard agreed with Kruse. “I grew up in South Carolina,” she said. “I am as Southern as they come, but understand that putting that monument back up is divisive. It’s hurtful and not something I want to see. I think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.”


Ballard said that she’d like to solicit community input about what should stand in the monument’s place. “I’d like to show our county’s full history with regards to civil rights, slavery, all of those things—possibly putting up a statue of civil rights in Manatee County,” she said.