Memphis Takes Down Confederate Statues After Outmaneuvering the State

Lawrence Kim
December 23, 2017

The removal of the statues and the action by Memphis officials was met with praise and criticism on social media by legislators on both sides of the aisle.

The statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis at Fourth Bluff Park in downtown Memphis was taken down Wednesday, Dec. 21.

A statue of Jefferson Davis is hoisted in the air in Memphis on December 20, 2017.

This is just the latest phase in America's ongoing battle over Confederate symbols and monuments.

Cities have tried to remove Confederate monuments after the racially motivated massacre of nine people at a black church in SC and a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Memphis City Council and Mayor Jim Strickland heard the voices of the people who wanted these removed and legally made it happen. "The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum". Both statues were erected in the 20th century - Forrest in 1904 and Davis during the height of the civil rights movement in 1964.

Memphis is fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Our community wants to reserve places of reverence for those that we honor", Strickland said. Strickland insists it is all perfectly legal.

In 2015, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to remove the Forrest monument, but earlier this year the Tennessee Historical Commission denied the city's application for a waiver from the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, setting in motion the plan to find alternative ways to remove the statue.

While most of the good citizens of Memphis were attending Wednesday night church services, the mayor and city council were busy finalizing a despicable plot to bypass the law and desecrate a Civil War gravesite.

The state law prohibits the removal, relocation, alteration, or renaming of "a$3 ny statue, monument, memorial, bust, nameplate, plaque, artwork, flag, historic display, school, street, bridge, or building ... on public property", including those that honor figures from past USA military conflicts, without a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Earlier this month, the city filed a petition asking for judicial review of the Tennessee Historical Commission's denial of a request to remove the Forrest statue.

In September, the City Council had passed a law that allows parks to be sold for less than their market value.

With no other option for removing the statues, the city opted to privatize the parks.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said Thursday afternoon he was "saddened" by the city's decision to "make an end run around the law and the explicit intent of the General Assembly".

"In the days after the August events in Charlottesville, we saw an avalanche of support come together behind our efforts".

"It is a deliberate attempt to avoid the state law and the city is breaking the law", Lee Millar with Sons of the Confederate Veterans told CNN affiliate WREG.

Strickland insisted that the city followed state law throughout the process.

The statues will be placed in an undisclosed location for security reasons, the paper added. "Operations on those sites tonight are being conducted by a private entity and are compliant with state law".

Residents of Memphis have been a part of a nationwide debate over whether Confederate monuments should be removed and whether they glorify the country's ugly history with slavery.

Public spaces are expected to reflect the views and feelings of the general public.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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