Lawsuit filed to stop City of Pensacola from removing historic monument

Posted on July 16, 2020 by Staff reports

A lawsuit was filed in State court Tuesday night along with a request for a request for an Emergency Temporary Restraining Order that seeks to prevent the City of Pensacola from removing what plaintiffs describe as the oldest veterans monument in the nation’s oldest city.

According to the City of Pensacola, its City Council on June 11 introduced discussion on the Lee Square Confederate Monument and initiated a 30-day waiting period for potential action. Staff was asked to consider whether or not the Square in its current format equitable and representative to all the citizens of our community. Staff determined Lee Square and the monument does not reflect the City’s current values nor strive to create a “more inclusive” City. 

Staff also projected that replacing the Cenotaph with a more-inclusive monument would be “cost prohibitive” and in excess of $10 million.

Subsequently, the council on Tuesday by a 6-1 margin with only Andy Terhaar in opposition, followed staff recommendation to approve the removal of the Lee Square Confederate Monument and to give the Mayor the authorization to award a contract to implement Council’s approval.

The plaintiffs include family of those on honored on the Cenotaph, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Save Southern Heritage – FL, and includes  counts including violations of State Laws, Federal Laws and the plaintiff’s Constitution Rights.

According to Save Southern Heritage, the Lee Square Cenotaph was erected in 1891 by the Ladies Memorial Association after years of fundraising, on the former site of a Federal war-time fort.

SSH says the lawsuit was filed in anticipation of the City Council voting to take it down, which did occur with the backdrop of an online meeting  where residents were prohibited from attending, and many were prevented from speaking to the Council rationalized by the pandemic.

“The City didn’t follow due process and are violating the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights,” said David McCallister, Save Southern Heritage FL General Counsel.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary L. Bergosh.