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Polk County Commission holds surprise vote to move Confederate marker in Bartow

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Posted at 7:41 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 19:41:18-04

BARTOW, Fla. — Located in plain view, on the grounds of the old Polk County courthouse in Bartow is a Confederate memorial.

Maggie Macaulay was at the unveiling ceremony nearly 40 years ago with her grandmother.

“She was asked to unveil it and she did. I was there when she pulled the cord to lift the cloth off of the monument,” said Macaulay.

Though her great-grandfather is one of the soldiers recognized on the Confederate marker, the now New Mexico resident and others called for the Polk County Historical Commission to have the memorial moved.

“The Confederacy was about slavery. There’s no question it was about slavery and that has always been against my internal justice system,” Macaulay said.

At the time, the Polk County Historical Commission agreed to leave the monument in place, cover up the confederate flag at the top, and build another memorial next to it that commemorates Black history.

But in a sudden vote Tuesday, the Polk County Commission voted to relocate it to Oak Hill Cemetery in Bartow. This was not on the agenda.

Most of the commissioners said they were concerned about what a new monument would cost taxpayers.

“It’s going to cost money to do that, and you know very well, could lead to other requests for other markers are or monuments on the courthouse lawn,” said Neil Combee, Polk County Commissioner for District 5.

While Macaulay supports relocating the marker to the cemetery, she and Terry Coney, the president of the Lakeland chapter of the NAACP, said there should have been more of a discussion.

“I was surprised. I’m not opposed to them moving it but according to Florida Sunshine Law and municipal law, normally they give the public an opportunity to express their opinion,” Coney said.

The City of Bartow, which owns the cemetery, will need to approve the relocation.