Snooty the Manatee (photo courtesy South Florida Museum)

It’s a question that’s become increasingly pressing in recent years, particularly with the rise of #BlackLivesMatter: What should be done with America’s many Confederate monuments?

In the case of a Civil War–era memorial in his city of Bradenton, one Florida man has a heartening solution: he wants to replace it with a tribute to a local hero. Known for his endearing charm, embrace of everyone, and love of lettuce, Snooty the Manatee was Brandenton’s beloved mascot and the world’s oldest captive manatee. He had celebrated his 69th birthday last weekend with a four-tiered fruit and veggie cake  — but died just two days later in a tragic accident, when he drowned after getting stuck in an underwater hatch at his home, the city’s Parker Manatee Aquarium. A side-by-side comparison of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune‘s front pages from those two days says it all.

Are you weeping yet?

To remember Snooty, Bradenton local Anthony Pusateri launched a petition calling on the city to erect a memorial to the 1,300-pound Snooty; it would stand in place of an obelisk outside the Manatee County Courthouse that was dedicated in 1924 to “the memory of our Confederate soldiers,” specifically Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. It’s located just a five-minute walk from the aquarium.

“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,” Pusateri writes on the petition’s page. “By doing so, the Confederate monument could possibly be moved to a museum (or other more appropriate location) out of everyday public eye and a more positive symbol then take its place.”

Addressed to the Manatee County Commission, which controls the statue’s fate, the petition has received over 11,o00 signatures as of press time. Its page is filled with individuals’ memories of Snooty as well as messages from people around the country who describe the obelisk as a symbol of hate.

“It will be no loss, by any measure, to see a confederate monument, which serves only to promote intolerance and bigotry, be replaced by monument to a figure so beloved as Snooty,” Andres Burton, a Bradenton local, commented.

“Snooty brought only joy to all,” wrote Michell Sasscer, of Maryland. “Confederate monuments bring pain and sense of oppression to many.”

And from Randy Longstreet, of Illinois: “Confederate monuments are celebratory of traitors and white supremacists and Snooty is awesome.”

It’s not wholly farfetched to imagine that these calls could become reality. Protestors across southern states have been demanding the removal of Confederate monuments and flags (and vandalizing many with #BlackLivesMatter messages), and some have come down, including four monuments in New Orleans. Removal of the Bradenton obelisk has not yet been widely discussed in the community, but the Bradenton Herald recently raised the possibility that controversy will come. As the paper reported, the Manatee County Commission voted to allow the erection of the monument in 1924, so the decision to remove or relocate it remains up to its members. They ended their summer recess this week, so, if the commission receives and reads the petition, perhaps discussions to remove the obelisk will occur soon. May its pedestal one day welcome a far more widely embraced icon, and may Snooty stand tall, portly, and whiskered once more.

Snooty, you will be dearly missed. #savethemanatees #SouthFloridaMuseum #sealife #snooty

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Snooty loves helping himself to the salad bar… #eatyourgreens #snooty #lovefl #bradenton #manatee

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Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...