Florida Senators walk out after racist comments in support of monument bill

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Confederate memorial
Protest against Confederate memorial on the grounds of Hillsborough County administrative courthouse in Tampa, Florida. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (27 June 2017).

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Public comment on a Florida bill to preserve monuments spiraled into racism and hate speech on Tuesday. Senate Democrats walked out of the Community Affairs committee. The bill passed the committee, but will likely not see the Senate floor.

Charles Bland Patrick is an attorney from Live Oak. He spoke in support of the bill that would protect Confederate memorials. Afterward, he was questioned by Republican Senator Alexis Calatayuud.

Calatayuud: White supremacy’s what I heard. White culture, white supremacy. I just want to clarify that was your intent in your public testimony today?

Patrick: Yes, it was.”

He was one of many citizens speaking both for and against the bill during public comment. The bill would prohibit local governments from removing most historical monuments. Tampa Bay resident David McCallister was escorted off the podium after Democratic Senator Jason Pizzo alleged McCallister insulted him.

“The official purge of public memorials is the first wave of a cultural war to destroy the past, so they can control the future.”

Democrat Senator Rosalind Osgood spoke out after the racist comments were made.

“Because I’m here and I’m the only black Senator here, I’m probably the most prepared to speak to it. To tell me how it hurt me as your sister when you come in here and use those kinds of comments.”

Osgood later joined other committee Democrats in walking out of the meeting.

Republican Senator Johnathan Martin is the bill sponsor. He blamed the media for villainizing him and the bill.

“I disavow everything some of you said. This bill is not about white supremacy, it’s not about Southern culture. Yes, there are white supremacists who want history protected, just like there’s black nationalists that want history protected.”

The bill passed the committee. However the next day, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said there are “problems with the bill”. She also said “I’m not going to bring a bill to the floor that is so abhorrent to everybody.”

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