The citizens, Scarritt said, “fixed the problem because it didn’t appear that the county could.” Choked up, he added: “I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow citizens.”
The county will now proceed to move the monument to a small family cemetery in Brandon, according to the plan previously agreed to by county commissioners. In an abundance of caution, county workers late Thursday put wooden barricades around it.
Commissioner Les Miller, the catalyst for moving the monument, put out a statement thanking “the public for such an outpouring of support.”
Scarritt will ask people who donated what to do with the $40,000 raised beyond the goal. It won’t be going to the County Commission, Scarritt was quick to clarify.
Gries said he hadn’t followed the story closely, but felt that Tampa was being embarrassed nationally after he saw a CNN report on the County Commission’s vote.
So he called Buckhorn and said he wanted to make a major contribution, hoping it would inspire others to do the same.
“We all love this community. We all love this country,’’ said Gries, the founder of Gries Investment Funds in Tampa. “We all want to live in a place that doesn’t promote racism or discrimination or hate or evil.”
In a statement, the chamber criticized the County Commission for deciding to “pass their responsibility to the business community.”
“The monument and what it represents is inconsistent with what is best for our region,” the statement said. “We look forward to working with our County Commissioners in the future to make more enlightened decisions.”
Buckhorn called the County Commission’s vote unprecedented, disheartening and “a blatant attempt to not do the morally correct thing.’’
“There is a place for those statues,” he said, “but it doesn’t belong on the public square where people walk by that courthouse expecting justice. That statue does not represent justice for African-Americans, for Catholics, for Jews, for anybody.”
Leaving the statue in place would kill the city’s attempts to attract conventions and would discourage businesses from moving or expanding in Tampa, Buckhorn said. He went on to warn the commission not to put up any more obstacles to moving the statue.
“I would dare them,” he said. “I think this community has said, ‘Enough is enough. We’re ready to turn this page.’ ”
It was County Commissioner Victor Crist’s idea to make the monument’s move contingent on private fundraising. Previously, the campaign was supposed to help pay for the move, but as of Wednesday morning, the Go Fund Me page had raised just $7,000. People weren’t contributing, Crist said, because they knew the county would pick up the tab.
In a way, Crist, who predicted organizers would have no trouble raising the money, was vindicated. In a text message Thursday, he said he was right.
“Now the liberals should be happy it’s moving, the conservatives should be happy that the taxpayers are not paying for it, and the Confederate enthusiasts, while they will still be angry because it’s moving, should at least be grateful that it’s going to be moved safely and erected properly at a site where they could still go and enjoy it,” Crist wrote.
David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Judah P. Benjamin Camp and an activist who has pushed for the statue to remain, said his group is not surprised supporters met the fundraising goal.
“We’re disappointed but we’re not angry about it,” McCallister said. “The point is, the people who did want to remove the statue needed to have some skin in the game. They needed to put their money where their mouth is.”