Residents of Bradenton, Florida are petitioning to replace a controversial Confederate memorial with a statue of Snooty the Manatee, the town's beloved sea cow.
On Sunday, Snooty — who was oldest sea cow in captivity at 69 years of age — died at the South Florida Museum after he became trapped in a hatch door and drowned. Brynne Anne Besio, the museum's CEO, explained they were “heartsick” over the animal's death and “want his legacy to continue through our manatee rehabilitation program and through all of our education and outreach programs.”
The death of the beloved manatee was a shock to the community and especially to Anthony Pusateri of Sarasota, Florida, the mastermind behind the Change.org petition pushing for the memorial's removal.
"Snooty the Manatee has been a symbol of Bradenton, Fla., for almost 70 years. He suddenly passed away on July 23, 2017 and was the oldest living Manatee on record in the world," Pusateri wrote. "Subsequently, there is a Confederate memorial statue that stands directly in front of the old courthouse just blocks away from the aquarium where Snooty resided. To honor Snooty’s legacy as a positive icon in Bradenton, I propose that the negative symbol of racism and oppression that is the Confederate monument be relocated and replaced with a statue of Snooty the Manatee," he continued.
Throughout the southern United States, the ongoing presence of memorials to Confederate soldiers continues to spark fierce debate between those who view the monuments as vestiges and tributes to the region's pro-slavery, racist heritage and those who feel — or at least say — they celebrate a proud legacy. Moves to remove such monuments have been met with strong, often openly racist protests from pro-Confederate groups as well as reactionary demonstrations from pro-black civil-rights activists.
According to the Bradenton Herald, Pusateri created the petition after learning of Snooty's death. He now plans to submit the petition for consideration by the city and county. "It’s the center of downtown, why not have a symbol of positivity?" he said. "Something everyone can get behind." Indeed, let's let the memory of Snooty unite our divided nation.