TAVARES, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A Confederate controversy is heating up in Central Florida. A statue is being removed from the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., and some want it relocated to Lake County. However, many are fighting to keep it from its final destination.
Rev. Michael Watkins, a pastor at the Friendship C.M.E. Church in Tavares, is opposed to the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith coming to Lake County. Florida's lawmakers last year voted to move it from Washington D.C. to the Lake County Historical Museum.
“We’ve been hit. We’ve been abused. Our forefathers have been mistreated. There’s no other way to get around,” said Rev. Watkins, adding that the statue is an offensive symbol of racism. “If you keep putting it in our face, you’re telling us you ain’t forgot it. You want to do it some more.”
He is now planning a protest march on August 10, from the St. John Independent Free Methodist Church a few blocks down to the county building with speakers and singers to make their voices heard.
Tavares City Council already voted to keep the statue out of town, but it’s ultimately up to the museum director. The director of the museum was not on site when a FOX 35 crew stopped by for comment, but we were able to reach him on the phone. He told us that the pastor has every right to lead this march, but he also has every right to display this statue and educate people.
Rev. Watkins says it should educate people in a different museum -- one that doesn’t sit inside the county courthouse, where it’s open and public.
“We are taxpayers as well. We have feelings. We want to raise our children just like everybody else. We want to live in harmony and peace. We do not want to live where people are sending us messages that you’re inferior.”