Dueling protests planned at Confederate monument in Bradenton

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Several groups with opposing views are planning to protest at a Confederate monument in downtown Bradenton.

Manatee County commissioners are preparing to make sure it’s done safely and have called a special meeting for 3 p.m. Friday to address public safety concerns.

The groups are expecting large showings with possibly hundreds of people Monday evening at the nearly century-old monument outside the Manatee County Courthouse.

“The reason why I protest is because right now the national spotlight is on the subject,” Gregory Cruz with Black Lives Matter Tampa says.

The event, which is titled “Unity March – Protest for the Removal of the Confederate Monument,” is being planned by several groups including Black Lives Matter Alliance Sarasota Manatee Chapter, Black Lives Matter Tampa, Indivisible Bradenton Progressive, Answer Suncoast, Action Together Suncoast and Black Lives Matter Tampa, according to the event page on Facebook.

So far more than 100 people have committed to showing up and an additional 200 are interested in attending.

Organizers plan to meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Bradenton Riverwalk before marching to the monument.

The groups will be met by counter-protesters from a pro-Trump group called America First-Team Manatee.

Organization chairwoman Barbara Hemingway told News Channel 8 over the phone that, “It’s about unity, it’s about preserving our history, and it’s about not allowing a side regardless of who’s involved to take away history.”

Hemingway added, “That’s what it really boils down to and trying to divide and use racism to accomplish their goals, we’re not about that. We’re proud of our veterans regardless of what war they fought. We do not believe that any memorial deserves to be defaced, torn down.”

Hemingway says the protest will be peaceful and that she’s hoping for at least 100 supporters.

Mary Onna Bode with Indivisible Bradenton Progressive says, “I am in no way wanting to have a confrontation or to make someone else wrong, let’s talk. Let’s see if we can come to some agreement. Maybe it doesn’t belong here; maybe it belongs at Gamble Mansion. That’s a place of history for us to see if we choose, but not in a place of justice.”

The topic continues to bring out strong views, not only across the country, but also on the sidewalks in downtown Bradenton.

While speaking with News Channel 8, Cruz and Bradenton local Bob Apostol crossed paths, began debating and challenged each other.

When asked if the monument should stay, Apostol told News Channel 8’s Corey Davis he has mixed feelings.

Apostol believes that the monuments represent freedom of speech for those who wanted to honor Confederate soldiers and figures. He says his opinions are, “based on all the statues that are getting torn down and removed.”

Apostol believes the issue is politically driven.

Cruz sees it differently and says the recent efforts to remove the monuments are connected to deeply rooted issues stemming back to a time before the country was founded.

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