LAKELAND, Fla. — After years of debate, and a federal lawsuit, the Confederate monument in Lakeland’s downtown Munn Park is being taken down and moved to Veterans Memorial Park, about a mile down the road behind the RP Funding Center.
- Confederate Statue in Munn Park now being moved
- Disassembling process to take two days
- Statue being moved to Veterans Memorial Park
- Project to be completed by mid-April
Crews arrived at the site around 7 a.m. Friday and started working around 7:30. It took them about two and a half hours to disassemble the top of the monument where the generic confederate soldier sits.
A handful of people came to watch. There were a few cheers from the small audience as the soldier was removed.
To those cheering, it was a moment that symbolized progress and a city moving towards inclusivity.
"That is not what Lakeland is about at this point in time," said Lakeland native Karl Pansler. "We need to move on, and we need to make this park something for the children of Lakeland and something to be enjoyed and not a graveyard to the dead."
For others like resident Glen Barfoot, who viewed the statue as representative of Southern history and that should have been left to stand in the center of downtown, it was a moment of sadness.
"I'm a fellow re-enactor, so you know I'm a little disappointed with [the move]," Barfoot told us.
Each piece of the statue will be taken down and put into boxes. This disassembling process is expected to take two days.
"This statue was erected in the early 1900s so you really don't know if there's rebar or what have you inside the monument so it was very meticulous. They took their time. They did infrared X-rays to see if there was any rods or dowels inside the monument. You also want to take extra care to make sure it doesn't break in the process,” said Kevin Cook, spokesman for the City of Lakeland
Workers are expected to return Saturday to continue taking down the monument.
The pieces of the statue are expected to be moved to veterans memorial park next week.
The Lakeland Commission voted to move the statue back in December of 2017. In November of 2018, they voted to use red light camera revenue to fund the move, along with the few private donations received.
Residents who opposed the move fought hard to keep the statue in place. A federal lawsuit was filed to stop the process, and was subsequently dismissed by a judge.
The opposition then paid for a billboard in January that begged residents to call the commission to stop the move.
In the end, though, the commission decided to move forward, deeming Veterans Memorial Park as a more appropriate location for the statue.
"Those people had great courage to do this and I respect them," said Pansler. "They’re supported by a majority of the people of Lakeland and I think that’s demonstrated by the fact that most of the people who are here today are for the moving of this.”
The total cost of the project is $225,000. It’s expected to be completed by mid-April.