A Florida state representative has proposed a bill that would prevent the removal of monuments from public property, including those honoring the Confederacy. Rep. Mike Hill said that his proposed “Soldiers’ and Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act” aimed to honor all who fought in U.S. battles.
If approved, it would be illegal to remove Confederate memorials, flags and other symbols, as well as street and school names honoring Confederate soldiers.
Hill, an Air Force veteran whom the Miami New Times reported was the Panhandle’s first African-American representative since the U.S. Civil War, told Fox & Friends that his act would also recognize those who fought in other wars.
“It’s for any soldier or hero who has fought in any sort of conflict or a battle in the U.S.,” he said, and would include “first responders and astronauts.” He was not asked why their memory would require protection. There are around 30 monuments across Florida honoring Confederate soldiers.
Hill said that he has not had a positive reaction from the African-American community on social media, but that those he has spoken to in Pensacola, the area he represents, have backed the idea.
“This is simply a small battle in the entire war for the soul of this nation. On one side, we have the left, that for some reason, wants to divide and destroy this nation. On the other side we have constitutional conservatives who believe in championing the rights of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equal protection under the law and constitution that limits this government by the consent of the governed,” he told Fox.
Hill said that it was “nonsense” that he backed putting up “monuments to slave owners” and that the idea that it was needed to tear down these monuments “because they are offensive is nothing more than faked, feigned outrage. If you tear down a monument, that does not all of a sudden make you have a better job and education, instead all it does is divide and destroy.”
Hill is known for trying to move President Donald Trump’s pickaxed Hollywood Walk of Fame star to Pensacola. The Miami New Times reported that Hill often minimizes the role of slavery in Confederate history.
Hill was first elected to the Florida House in a 2013 special election following the death of Republican Rep. Clay Ford. He was criticized on the last election campaign trail by fellow Republicans for comments against other conservatives that were deemed racist and sexist.
The Republican Liberty Congress said he had shared a social media post in which he questioned whether a female opponent could lead without ever having been a mother, the Miami New Times reported.
The issue of Confederate memorials has become politically charged in parts of the U.S. Those opposing the neo-Confederate movement say the memorials portray the Confederacy in a heroic light and downplay its defense of racism and slavery.
In December, staff went on strike at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill until the school abandoned a proposed plan to construct a building to house the Confederate monument, Silent Sam, Salon.com reported.
Activist David Porter, who led the charge in 2017 to have a Confederate statue removed from the Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando said that he would continue to rally on the issue. “Those statues are a symbol of white supremacy,” said Porter, according to Fox 35.
Earlier in December, commissioners in Jefferson County, West Virginia, voted to remove a controversial plaque honoring Confederate soldiers from the front of the courthouse, The Washington Post reported.