Hundreds protest Confederate statue placement in Lake County

Hundreds of protesters are expected to march through downtown Tavares Saturday afternoon

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Hundreds of people peacefully protested the installation of a Confederate statue in Lake County's historical museum Saturday.

Community leaders and residents came together to protest the placement of the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.

Residents and leaders have debated the installation for months and said they don't want it.

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"They did not give us any voice in it at all. They're just shoving this statue down our throats," said Michael Watkins, a pastor.

Organizers of the march began the protest at St. John Free Methodist Church and made their way up the street to the historical museum.

Participants walked to the historic courthouse, where community leaders and elected officials talked about the statue.

The city of Tavares prepared for the event by adding road closed signs and barriers along the route.

Watkins is convinced that if the general's statue can come to Lake County, people who support the statue will bring more statues.

"They want to make Lake County the Confederate statue capital of the world. To me, that's just sad," Watkins said.

Watkins and his group have been fighting to keep the statue out of Lake County from the beginning.

However, county commissioners recently sealed the deal with a 3-2 vote in favor of bringing the statue to Lake County.

Watkins said he's calling for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider other options before the statue arrives in Lake County.

Until then, Watkins said his group is not giving up.