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Take It Down: Lawsuit takes aim at tax dollars that fund tributes to Confederacy

Earl Johnson Jr. filed a lawsuit against Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to halt the use of public tax dollars used for Confederate monuments.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's a battle that's been going on for years, the fight to take down Confederate monuments in Florida. An ongoing lawsuit regarding the removal Confederate monuments has an update that could affect your money.

Earl Johnson Jr. is a man on a mission. He doesn't want Confederate statues on public land, he doesn't want streets named after the Confederacy, and he doesn't want tax dollars going towards an entity that is named after the Confederacy.

That includes counties named after Confederate generals.

The monument to the Women of the Southern Confederacy is one of the most hotly contested structures in all of Jacksonville. Located in Springfield Park (the park was renamed from Confederate Park in 2020), the word "confederacy" is plain to see in multiple locations on the statue. Earl Johnson Jr. says that's a problem.

"Any use of public funding to honor the Confederacy on public land is in essence a governmental endorsement of white supremacy," said Johnson. "I'm a descendant of enslaved people, I'm asking the court to find that use of my tax dollars to be unconstitutional under the 13th amendment, 14th amendment and civil rights act of 1964."

According to Johnson's lawsuit there are 47 different named tributes to the Confederacy in the middle district of Florida, and that includes the names of five counties.

Johnson filed a lawsuit saying that the use of tax dollars for Confederate monuments is unconstitutional according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"The public accommodations portion of it prohibits any public accommodation from having discriminatory or discriminating actions or conduct based on race of color," said Johnson.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is named as a defendant in this lawsuit. In May 2020 he removed part of a confederate monument in James Weldon Johnson Park, but the phrase 'Confederate memorial' is still in plain view on the base of the monument.

George Blunt was playing dominoes in the park when First Coast News asked him about the lawsuit.

"Any sense of promotion of confederacy should be changed," said Blunt. "We want everyone going in the same direction in the United States."

This lawsuit is personal for Johnson, his father was Martin Luther King Jr's attorney and used the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to desegregate Florida.

"And now 60 years later I'm using the act to remove the symbols of white supremacy while he removed the signs of whites only, colors only," said Johnson.

Earl Johnson Jr is not asking for any money in his lawsuit, just a declaratory judgement and action by Mayor Curry and Governor DeSantis.

To learn more about the efforts of Earl Johnson Jr and the removal of confederate monuments visit his website takeitdown.org.

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