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    Manatee Co. Commission discusses planned Unity Rally

    The Manatee County Commission held a meeting Friday afternoon to discuss public safety concerns after events around the country have sparked rallies and protests at Confederate monuments.

    A white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly last weekend when a man drove a car into a group of protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.

    A so-called Unity March is planned in Manatee County Monday. Commissioners urged everyone planning to attend to "remain respectful and peaceful."

    Commission Chair Betsy Benac called Friday's meeting so Commissioners could discuss options in advance of Monday's planned events.

    At the beginning of the meeting, County Commissioners began to discuss their own beliefs about Confederate monuments and some aspects of history.

    A man in the audience of the meeting was reprimanded at one point for speaking out. He was told if he spoke again he would be escorted out by police.

    Commissioner Priscilla Trace spoke in favor of keeping a Confederate monument in front of the courthouse in the context of historical preservation.

    Commissioner Charles B. Smith said he was a strong supporter of learning from history and preserving the past, but also said understanding the realities of history is the most important aspect.

    Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who was not present at the meeting but spoke via phone, said she was angry about violence at rallies around the country, but said the country should preserve the monument.

    Commission Chair Betsy Benac brought the meeting back for a moment, saying the purpose was to discuss putting the monument into safekeeping until a final location could be suggested, but began talking about her experience attending rallies when she was younger.

    Manatee County says procedures allow the highest-ranking officer to call a meeting with 24 hours notice when the person calling the meeting believes that a situation exists that requires immediate consideration or action by the Board.

    Stay with FOX 13 News for more on this developing story.


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