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A new bill in Florida would allow citizens to sue for damage to or removal of Confederate statues

A white statue being carried away on a truck with trees in the backgroundIn this June 20, 2017, file photo, the top section of a Confederate statue called “Johnny Reb” is loaded on a truck before being removed from a downtown park in Orlando, Fla. WFTV-TV reported Wednesday, Dec. 6, that the statue now stands in Orlando’s Greenwood Cemetery.

John Raoux/AP

  • A new bill in Florida would allow citizens to sue for damage to or removal of historical monuments.
  • The bill doesn’t mention Confederate statues, but opponents say it is a response to it.
  • The GOP Senator who sponsored the bill said it is meant to protect history.

A proposed bill in Florida would give citizens the ability to sue for damage or removal of historical monuments — including Confederate statues and monuments — across the state. 

State legislators opposing the bill believe that SB 1096 — while not explicitly mentioning Confederate monuments — will embolden citizens of the state and any entity with interest in “historic preservation” to hold local governments and any person in the state liable for damage or removal. 

State Senator Lori Berman, one of two senators who voted against the bill in the state Senate’s Community Affairs Committee, told Hyperallergic the bill “is absolutely a response to the removal of Confederate statues, no question.”

The bill text states that any person or entity that damages, destroys, or removes a monument is liable for triple the cost to return, repair, or replace a monument or memorial, which is defined as anything meant to be “perpetually maintained” and represents a historical event or person.

The bill also clarifies in detail that it will also protect monuments dedicated to a historical person or event that  “recounts the military service of any past or present military personnel or the past or present public service of a resident of the geographical area comprising this state or the United States of America.”

GOP Senator Jonathan Martin, who sponsored the bill, and filed it in February, defended it by saying it was meant to preserve history.

The newly-elected state senator, endorsed by Ron DeSantis during his 2022 campaign, previously served on the Florida Southwestern State College Board of Trustees. 

Martin has not previously publicly spoken about Confederate statues but has made headlines for his controversial bills, including banning electric vehicles during emergency evacuations until the state builds more charging stations. Before being elected, the state senator had been investigated for battery but was cleared by prosecutors in August. 

“What I like about these memorials in public places is that everybody has the opportunity to see who we were,” Martin told the Orlando Sentinel. “The older the monument, the more important it is, because it provides a starting point for what our country began as, who led our country.”

Over the past few years, a national movement to remove Confederate statues took hold in the US, with proponents of these removals pointing to the statues’ ties to slavery. In 2021, Virginia removed the largest Confederate statue in the country to cheers from a crowd.

Martin did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

Read the original article on Business Insider