Should Jacksonville remove its Confederate monuments?

This was the hot-button question that animated public comment at a Jacksonville City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The monument debate, saved for the main event of the evening, roiled Council for hours.

Though Council President Anna Brosche walked back her proposal to remove the monuments, in light of “alternative suggestions,” those on both sides of the issue functioned as if the choice was one between taking down the monuments and keeping them intact and in place.

The first of 123 speaker cards was heard on Confederate monuments shortly after 8:00 p.m.

The discourse started off with heat, with Council leadership struggling to maintain order in the room.

The first speaker wanted monuments gone: “if you do not change, the same thing that happened in Charlottesville will happen here.”

Soon after, local Confederacy enthusiast Seber Newsome III produced a poll in favor of retaining these monuments, saying that voters also wanted Brosche out of office.

“The people! Let us vote,” Newsome said, saying opponents were “communists … Antifa … Black Lives Matter.”

Councilwoman Katrina Brown noted that some of the feedback, especially that with scatological racial slurs, was offensive.

Newsome was incredulous. He had to be talked down before relinquishing the mike.

Much of the discussion came down to history, with proponents of statue removal saying that Confederate history could be gleaned from books, and with opponents saying that history itself has been eliminated from the public discourse.

Proponents of removal painted the statues as symbols of oppression; opponents of removal noted that slavery was not just a southern thing, and those being memorialized were simply soldiers.

But just as discussion settled down, a speaker heated it up again — animating these tensions.

One speaker — a 62-year-old Jacksonville native — noted that “Jacksonville is a racist

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