Save Southern Heritage is a national network committed to keeping monuments to the pro-slavery South alive and gleaming across the nation. At least one member of the group from Virginia attended last weekend's Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where mobs of white nationalists beat people with sticks and drove a car into dozens of peaceful counterprotesters.
But in Florida, it turns out the same group has been frightening and intimidating civil rights activists for the past few months. New Times has obtained a copy of a dossier the group put together earlier this year that lists the faces and names of dozens of activists, mostly from Hillsborough and Broward Counties. The dossier includes detailed personal information about 113 people who have fought to remove Confederate monuments.
"It’s harassing people," says Carlos Valnera, a Broward County resident who has worked to rename Confederate streets in Hollywood. "We're extremely concerned. This shouldn’t be happening in South Florida. It shouldn’t be happening anywhere."
The memo specifically targets the 113 people who spoke in favor of removing a Confederate statue in Tampa at a July 19 meeting of the Hillsborough County Commission, including two elected officials. The dossier also includes a spreadsheet of activists' home addresses, phone numbers, and brief descriptors. Several activists are described simply as "Muslim," "LGBT," "anti-Trump," or "resentful black man." In some cases, the dossier also details the people whom activists live with or own a home with. The dossier also includes screenshots of Facebook posts from many of the activists and, in some cases, their arrest history or mug shots.
Some descriptions include obvious insults, such as calling one woman a "professional protester," another a "Democratic Party mouthpiece," and another a person who "needs a job" and is a "feminist" who "complains about the patriarchy." Multiple people are deemed "Southern apologists." (Other descriptors are comedic: One man is listed simply as a "great singer," while another is deemed a "gadfly and all around bad guy.")
People of color make up roughly half of the activists included in the document.
Save Southern Heritage posted the documents, unredacted, on its website August 10. (New Times is not linking to the site in order to protect the personal information of the activists.) The group claimed online that the document was a "study." The information is still accessible to anyone online, including people who might wish to do harm to the civil rights activists.
Save Southern Heritage writes online that the group trawled publicly available databases to amass information about the activists. "Research sources for the Study included social media sites, voter registration rolls, speaker sign in cards, property appraiser records, and other internet research sites," Save Southern Heritage's August 10 post reads.
Broward-area activists included in the memo tell New Times the dossier frightened them and caused many to worry whether they were about to be targeted for violence or harassment. Earlier this week, New Times spoke to Carlos
"Some of the groups organizing counterprotesting have this document with all of our pictures,"
Save Southern Heritage Florida markets itself as an organization merely dedicated to preserving images of the Confederate flag and iconography of the Rebel Army across the state. But given that the flag represents a racist army fighting for the subjugation of black people — and has since been co-opted by other white-nationalist groups and far-right organizations across the world — Florida activists told New Times they worried about what purpose the dossier served or what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands.
Anti-Confederate protesters in Hollywood have already been harassed by at least one avowed white supremacist: In June, a member of the white-nationalist Florida League of the South counterprotested an anti-Confederacy demonstration outside Hollywood City Hall. (The protester wore a League of the South T-shirt and waved a League of the South flag.) That day, state Rep. Shevrin Jones said he was called a "nigger" and a "monkey" and told to "go back to where [he] came from."
Yesterday New Times reported that Ocala state Sen. Dennis Baxley confirmed he will speak at a Save Southern Heritage Florida event September 2 even after a white nationalist killed a counterprotester in Charlottesville over the weekend. Save Southern Heritage has shared memes erroneously claiming the terror attack was a false flag orchestrated by leftists:
The group has also separately disseminated some extremely offensive memes online: When Hollywood Commissioner Kevin Biederman expressed support for changing the name of a street honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Save Southern Heritage Florida placed an image of Biederman's face next to that of a Nazi flag:
The group has also shared memes referring to former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson as
Geraldine "Taliban" Thompson because of her alleged "anti-veteran" and "anti-history" stances on Confederate regalia.
David McCallister, a spokesperson for Save Southern Heritage Florida, tells New Times the document was meant to show Hillsborough County officials that an alleged group of "radical leftists" was trying to "intimidate them." He said his group created the spreadsheet to weed out people who came to speak in front of the Hillsborough Commission from out of town.
"These were not civil rights activists," McCallister claimed. "These were people who were attending the county commission meeting for the purpose of intimidating the county commissioners. We made this to know who exactly they are."
McCallister characterized the group profile in the dossier as "Antifa, Maoist organizations, Black Lives Matter, which are
Many of the people listed in the dossier are elderly. There is no evidence that any of those listed in the "study" have ever engaged in political violence.
"The purpose was to show that these are people who have appeared in other places, who go around the state doing the same thing, trying to intimidate local public officials," McCallister claimed. He added these are the sorts of people who "commit criminal acts. People who are members of Antifa need to be known and ID’ed. You have Maoists with their faces covered with masks here." He erroneously called them an "assembly of hate groups."
The document includes a hilarious "disclaimer" on its final page, which says Save Southern Heritage is not responsible if anyone uses the information to hurt people:
SSH FL assumes no responsibility for consequences resulting from the use of the information herein, or from use of the information obtained at linked Internet addresses, or in any respect for the content of such information, including (but not limited to ) errors or omissions, the accuracy or reasonableness of factual or scientific assumptions, studies or conclusions, the defamatory nature of statements, ownership of copyright or other intellectual property rights, and the violation of property, privacy, or personal rights of others. SSH FL is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to, or reliance on such information.
Save Southern Heritage posted the documents on its Facebook page August 10:
As of 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, the post had been shared 96 times, including by multiple people or pages that expressed solidarity with attendees of the Unite the Right rally, where a 20-year-old white nationalist murdered an counterprotester fighting for the same thing as the activists in the document. More than 15,500 people follow the group's Facebook page.
"Public officials tend to take this not seriously enough," Valnera said. "But by ignoring it, they're only perpetuating it."