The Florida chapter of pro-Confederate group Save Southern Heritage has parachuted into Jacksonville's Confederate monument debate and is calling for a voter referendum on their removal. The group claims that a poll it commissioned shows that the public "overwhelmingly" opposes removing the monuments, WJCT reports.
Save Southern Heritage bills itself as "a voluntary association of individuals who revere the south, southern history and southern heritage," and "wish to see the history of the south preserved for future generations."
The Florida chapter of the pro-Confederate group announced its intent at a press conference in Hemming Park on Tuesday. At that press conference, Seber Newsome told WJCT, "This survey confirms our steadfast belief that Ms. [City Counil President Anna Lopez] Brosche is way off the political spectrum by associating herself with 'radical' groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter 'extremists.'" Last year, numerous stories about the debate over whether to remove a statue of a Confederate leader from the state capitol quoted Save Southern Heritage's Seber Newsome III of Yulee.
Last week, in part reacting to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Brosche called for an inventory and removal of Confederate monuments from public places in Duval County. She has since backed away from seeking an outright removal.
Save Southern Heritage Florida is also the same group that Miami New Times reported on Aug. 17 had doxxed 113 civil rights activists, most from Hillsborough and Broward Counties, in a detailed dossier that included their names and faces, as well as home addresses, phone numbers and the names of co-owners and co-inhabitants of their homes. Miami New Times reported that the Florida chapter's spokesperson David McCallister claimed it doxxed the civil rights leaders, many of whom are elderly, "to weed out people who came to speak in front of the Hillsborough Commission from out of town." As the outlet reported, publishing such a dossier could be a considered criminal under Florida statute.
The parent organization, Save Southern Heritage, which lists a Mayesville, South Carolina, mailing address, appears to have a particular fondness for Donald Trump, Confederate flags and airplanes. The homepage of its website is emblazoned with Trump's name and campaign slogan and the few events listed there are all flyovers. A GoFundMe page linked to its site bears a photo of a plane dragging a sign bearing a Confederate battle flag and "No votes for turncoats," which it purportedly flew over the Charleston, South Carolina Republican presidential debates, which were held in January 2016. The GoFundMe, which is for future flyovers, states it is a "fundraiser for Kathleen Hines by Kirk D. Lyons." According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Kirk Lyons is a white supremacist attorney who first catapulted to notoriety when he successfully defended former Klansman, white supremacist Louis Beam, one of the defendants in the Fort Smith sedition trial of the 1980s.
Elsewhere on the site, the group lists Richard T. Hines as a point of contact. In 2005, The Nation reported that Richard Hines, a former staffer in the Reagan Administration, was the "hidden hand behind the extremist agenda of the neo-Confederate movement."
As Jacksonville grapples with the issue of whether to remove Confederate monuments, which groups including Take 'Em Down Jax, the Northside Coalition, and others are urging, Tampa-based Save Southern Heritage Florida seems likely to continue to insert itself in the debate.