Monday July 31, 2017

Why a Florida man wants to replace a Confederate monument with a manatee statue

In this July 17, 2013, file photo, Snooty the manatee lifts its snout out of the water at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Fla.

In this July 17, 2013, file photo, Snooty the manatee lifts its snout out of the water at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Fla. (Tanara Lush/Associated Press)

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A statue of the recently departed Snooty the manatee would be a "fitting replacement" for a Confederate monument at a Florida courthouse, says Anthony Pusateri.

The Bradenton, Fla., man has launched an online petition calling for the Confederate monument to be removed from its current place outside the Manatee County courthouse to make way for a memorial to Snooty, the town's deceased mascot.

"Oh, he was a staple in my childhood ever since I was a toddler," Pusateri told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"He was always around. He was always there. It's almost like I felt he was immortal to a certain extent."

Elderly Manatee

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling for a statue of Snooty the manatee to be erected in the place of a a Confederate monument in Bradenton, Fla. (South Florida Museum/Associated Press)

Snooty, believed to be the world's oldest manatee, drowned last week in the life-support maintenance area of the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, just two days after his 69th birthday.

Officials at the museum have asked for a third-party investigation into the animal's death, reports the Palm Beach Post.

"He was a very beloved figure in the community," Pusateri said. "He was the mascot of Bradenton."

The manatee's death comes amid a national debate in the southern U.S. over the value Confederate statues, flags and memorials. 

In Bradenton, a granite obelisk honouring Confederate soldiers has stood in front of the county courthouse since 1924.

Pusateri doesn't want the memorial destroyed — just moved to a location where it can be viewed as a piece of history.

"It really has no business being in front of a courthouse in the middle of downtown Bradenton," Pusateri said.

"So I figured that would be a fitting replacement for a monument that has so many negative connotations and is tied to slavery and divisiveness — something we as a nation should never strive to honour or celebrate."

As of Monday, the petition has more than 12,100 signatures, which Pusateri plans to present to the county commissioner in the hopes of giving his idea some traction with lawmakers.

"The army of people who have risen to the occasion is just, I'm speechless," he said.

And he already has an idea about what the Snooty statue should look like.

"I would say a marble or a metal statue of just him with a bushel of romaine lettuce in his mouth would be definitely a fitting memorial for him," he said. "Oh, he loved that stuff."