Officials pass resolution condemning relocation of Confederate statue to Tavares

TAVARES, Fla. — A Tavares pastor is fighting to keep a statue honoring a Confederate general out of his town.

Pastor Mike Watkins went before the Tavares City Council on Wednesday to push his cause.

Watkins does not want the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in Tavares and asked the council to pass a resolution in opposition to placing the statue at the Lake County History Museum, which is just a few blocks from City Hall.

In 2016, state lawmakers voted to remove the statue from Washington, D.C.

A vote early this year proposed moving Smith’s statue to the Lake County History Museum, but the pastor is pushing against it.

Watkins spoke before the City Council on Wednesday, urging them to reconsider the move.

"He's a Confederate soldier. He fought to keep slavery alive. He didn't reside in this county. He lived in St. Augustine," Watkins said. "It has no bearing on this county, so why would we celebrate him here when we know it's going to bring division in our communities?"

Watkins, who is African-American, said he wants the City Council to pass a resolution condemning the possibility of bringing the statue to town.

"We have been building bridges and breaking down barriers and trying to build relationships in our community," he said. "Now someone wants to bring a statue that reminds us of the days when we were treated as second-class citizens."

In a largely symbolic move, the City Council on Wednesday afternoon passed a motion condemning the statue's relocation.