Volunteers keep watch over Tampa Confederate monument

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Last weekend's violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia re-ignited the nationwide debate on Confederate monuments, leading to some incidents of vandalism.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigators are still searching for vandals who targeted the Confederate Memorial in Seffner. Over the weekend, it was found with red paint splattered all over the monuments.

After Monday night's incident in Durham, North Carolina, where activists toppled down a Confederate Monument, local volunteers are making sure it doesn't happen in Tampa. Members of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups plan to stand guard from dawn until dusk, watching the Confederate monument outside the Historic Hillsborough County Courthouse.

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Last month, County Commissioners voted 4-2 to remove the monument. Its new home will be a private cemetery in Brandon. Tuesday, crews began inspecting the monument, ahead of its planned move.

Until then, the volunteers will make sure it stays in one piece.

"We are not here to confront anybody, we are here in case something happens, to notify the proper authorities," said David McAllister, Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "This is an American veterans monument and to disrespect this monument is to disrespect all veterans."

When McAllister looks at Confederate Monuments, "I see a tribute to the heroism of American veterans."

But, to Ruth Beltran of Answer Suncoast, she sees, "really just a symbol of slavery, of white supremacy in our country."

They're two sides of an issue reaching its boiling point in the United States.

While there are efforts in Hillsborough County to keep watch over the monument, in Bradenton, Answer Suncoast and a few other groups are demanding theirs be removed. Monday night they're organizing an event called "Take it down! No white supremacy at the Manatee County Courthouse."

"A place of justice should represent justice for everyone and not have symbols of what has been hatred in America," Beltran said. "It's time to let that go. Even if they were veterans and fought, they were still on the wrong side of history."

Though the intent of the event is to put pressure on county lawmakers, Beltran supports the actions taken in Durham.

"I was very happy to see that video yesterday. I think it's the right thing to do. America has to leave behind it's dark past," Durham said.

McAllister thinks the most fair solution is having citizens vote on monuments so all voices are heard.

"There should be room for all of us in Tampa, in Hillsborough County and the whole United States," McAllister said. "Toleration means toleration for all sorts of people."

Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners will discuss a proposed ordinance called the Hillsborough County War Veterans Memorial Protection Ordinance. It would prohibit removal, relocation or renaming of monuments or memorials on public property.