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Republican legislators protect Florida’s confederate legacy



The senators were all about preserving history. Not all history, mind you. Not the history of Florida’s Black and brown minorities, whose abuse, exploitation and occasional lynchings have been excised from public school textbooks.

Rather, Republican state Sen. Jonathan Martin’s proposed legislation would protect stone and bronze icons of a mythologized history.

MAGA Republicans have been incensed by Florida cities and counties that moved Jim Crow-era confederate statuary from parks, streets and town squares to more obscure settings.

Senate Bill 1122 would prohibit such insults to the lost cause. Martin’s legislation “preempts local government actions that may relocate, remove, damage or destroy a monument or memorial.” (“Preemption” has become a favorite word of Republican lawmakers, because when it comes to local governance, Tallahassee knows best.)

South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Fred Grimm. (Rolando Otero, South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Rolando Otero / Sun Sentinel

South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Fred Grimm. (Rolando Otero, South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Local government upstarts who flout the monuments law would be slapped with civil damages. The governor would be empowered to remove transgressors from office. (One of his favorite pastimes.)

At a contentious meeting of the Florida Senate’s Committee on Community Affairs Tuesday, Martin lamented that Florida cities have removed memorials that “have stood for hundreds of years.” He argued, “I should be able to see that and not have some city council [that] happens to represent 2,000 people [living near] that memorial or monument infringe on my right [to enjoy] Florida history.”

Martin insisted that his measure protects generic memorials, not just the confederate kind. But everyone in the hearing room knew that the bill was a reaction to Florida’s ongoing confederate monuments controversy.

Conservative Republicans were particularly outraged after Jacksonville evicted statues of a rebel soldier and “Women of the Southern Confederacy” from city parks in 2020 and 2023.

“This is cancel culture,” complained Republican state Rep. Dean Black, who is sponsoring a companion monuments bill in the House of Representatives. “What we are trying to do is right the wrongs of cancel culture.”

History will note it was actually generals Grant and Sherman who canceled the confederates.

The hearing was just another skirmish in the culture wars, with MAGA World’s disquieting regard for the Old Confederacy bubbling just beneath the surface.

When it came time for public comment, most of the speakers opposed SB 1122. Didn’t matter. Republicans dominate the committee.

But then a couple of aging, angry neo-confederates took the fun out of winning. They blurted such intemperate remarks, they sabotaged their own cause. One of them declared the removal of confederate memorials was “part of the cultural war being waged against white society.” The other invoked “white nationalism” and called opponents of Martin’s bill “Black Lives Matter communists.”

Republican committee members were chagrined to hear the subtext of SB 1122 uttered aloud. “You are the reason I’m vacillating on whether or not to even vote yes, because it would look like I endorse your hatred,” Sen. Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island told the grumpy old men. “And I do not.”

Of course, neither Bradley nor the other committee Republicans were chagrined enough to vote against the bill. All voted for it, and the living descendants of slaves discovered that they were less important to the Republican majority than long-dead defenders of slavery. The three Democratic committee members walked out before the vote, leaving Republicans with a five-to-zip majority and more irony than a preachers’ convention in Vegas.

They voted to “preserve history.” The week before, this same Republican majority murdered historic preservation. They approved a shocking bill that would allow the demolition of hundreds of historically significant buildings along the coast. If the structures fail to meet modern construction standards — a sure bet — developers could defile Florida historic districts with shiny new condominiums. Local governments would have no say in the matter.

The same bunch who voted to save historic monuments honoring confederate traitors didn’t give a damn about saving historic structures in Key West, St. Augustine and Miami Beach.

Speaking of history, the Republican legislative supermajority mandated a rewrite of history textbooks to include the supposed benefits of slavery. Seems like history might not be their best subject.

Perversely, SB 1122’s chances for passage were damaged by the bill’s most fervent supporters. The ugly white supremacist language coming from the two aging neo-confederates appalled Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. She called their performance, “abhorrent behavior.”

Though the monuments bill has been approved by two senate committees, the disgusted Passidomo suggested that she might keep the bill from getting a floor vote. The racist rants of the old reprobates might save Florida from another idiot skirmish in the war on woke.

The hearing on SB 1122 made it clear that Florida needs more than 160 years to vanquish its confederate legacy.

Fred Grimm, a longtime resident of Fort Lauderdale, has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1976. Reach him by email at or on Twitter: @grimm_fred.

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