BRADENTON, Fla. – Several hundred supporters of Black Lives Matter and others rallied Monday evening in a city on Florida's Gulf Coast to demand the removal of a Confederate monument that has stood for decades outside a courthouse. The protest also drew a smaller number of people to the city of Bradenton who wanted the monument, now clad in protective plywood, to stay.
Bradenton leaders had the plywood put up around the monument in recent days, after a similar debate in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to a violent white nationalist rally Aug. 12 in which hundreds clashed violently. After authorities had broken up that rally, a car had rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters that day in Charlottesville, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
On Monday evening, activists opposed to the Bradenton monument stood shoulder to shoulder with elderly people waving signs against racism. Some signs read: "No racism, no hate." Activists marched a few blocks from the city's waterfront to the courthouse plaza, where they gave speeches and chanted.
A handful of people stood in opposition, including a person with a sign with a swastika and others waving a Confederate flag.
"It's history, get over it!" a white woman hollered.
"It's still happening," a black man yelled back.
Critics have called such monuments symbols of white supremacy and racism. Supporters of such monuments say they are reminders of Southern heritage.
Law enforcement stood around the monument during the entire two-hour protest. The monument, which has a Confederate flag etched on one side and the names of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee inscribed on the other sides, was unveiled in June 1924 and sits on public property.
There was a brief tense moment at the end as speakers finished addressing the crowd and participants in the rally against the monument began dispersing. For a moment a handful of black men faced off with people carrying the Confederate flag. Deputies on horseback broke up the two groups and cleared the sidewalk.
A reporter witnessed one man being led off to a police station but it was unclear why — and whether he had been detained.
The local sheriff's department and Bradenton police had blocked off streets with heavy vehicles and barricades at nearby intersections as a security measure, preventing anyone from driving into the area. At least 200 law enforcement agents were reported on hand.
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