Historic City News was informed that on Monday, a lawsuit was filed in Federal Court, including a request for an emergency temporary restraining order seeking to prevent the City of St. Augustine from removing the oldest Confederate memorial in Florida.
The primary plaintiff on the lawsuit is 72-year-old Harold Kenneth Edgerton of Asheville, North Carolina; past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in his hometown, according to his Florida attorney David Rhodes McCallister.
The complaint includes 10 counts including violations of the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments. There are nine other plaintiffs in the case including the Ladies Memorial Association, William Wing Loring Camp #1316, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Save Southern Heritage Florida.
The St Augustine memorial in the Plaza was erected in 1879 as the successor to the Confederate memorial previously built in front of the home of Bishop Agustin Verot on Catholic Church property. The memorial that stands today was erected by the Ladies Memorial Association of St Augustine.
Edgerton said, “It would be a travesty if the City of St. Augustine, our nation’s oldest and most diverse city, is allowed to censor this Monument and erase the history and sacrifice of folks that looked like me.”
The lawsuit also seeks to remove the “Contextualization” that the City installed in 2018. The plaintiffs claim this represents suppression of their Constitutional rights.
Edgerton travelled from North Carolina to St. Augustine on multiple occasions to promote the preservation of the Cenotaph and asked on several occasions to be placed on the City Commission meeting agenda so that he could present “the other side”, but, each time he was rejected.
Edgerton has been a civil rights activist for fifty years and was part of the Civil Rights movement memorialized in the same Plaza. He turned his attention to oppressed civil rights of descendants of veterans of the Southern Armed Forces in the conflict of 1861-1865 and has featured prominently in efforts to protect the rights of school children.
Edgerton has been accepted as an expert witness in previous lawsuits on this subject in Federal District Court regarding the freedom of expression that is at the heart of the First Amendment. There are several monument cases pending in Federal Court with similar complaints to this one, but none of which relate to a monument as old as this one.
The case was assigned to Judge Brian J. Davis, an appointee to the bench made by President Obama. The President was criticized during the appointment process for showing bias towards blacks.