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State sues Birmingham to protect Confederate monuments

By Brandon Moseley 
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, August 16, 2017, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) announced that his office has filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against the City of Birmingham and Mayor William Bell for violating state law by constructing barriers to deliberately obscure the Confederate Veterans Monument in Linn Park.

Attorney General Marshall said in a statement, “In accordance with the law, my office has determined that by affixing tarps and placing plywood around the Linn Park Memorial such that it is hidden from view, the Defendants have ‘altered’ or ‘otherwise disturbed’ the memorial in violation of the letter and spirit of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.”

Attorney General Marshal; stated, “The City of Birmingham does not have the right to violate the law and leaves my office with no choice but to file suit.”

The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey in the 2017 legislative session.

The act prohibits the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument located on public property which has been in place for 40 or more years.  The Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Linn Park, which was dedicated in 1905, is older than the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

State Senator Gerald Allen (R from Tuscaloosa) supported the move by AG Marshall. Sen. Allens said, “I applaud Attorney General Steve Marshall for standing up for the rule of law. The Memorial Preservation Act provides a framework for the thoughtful protection of historical monuments and statues. The people’s representatives in the Legislature overwhelmingly approved the Act this spring; the State Senate by a 23-6 vote and the House of Representatives by a 69-0 count.”

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Sen. Allen said, “It is unfortunate that Mayor William Bell has decided to elevate his own personal preferences above the law in covering the monument at Linn Park. If Mayor Bell believes his city is best served by the monument’s alteration or removal, he should follow the law and apply for a waiver as outlined in the Memorial Preservation Act.”

Allen continued, “Nationally, there has been much controversy recently around Civil War monuments. Here in Alabama, I am optimistic we can continue to have a thoughtful dialogue over the appropriate place for monuments to the Alabamians who died during the Civil War. Mayor Bell’s action violates the law, but it also harms efforts to responsibly consider how we should best remember the past.”

After Birmingham Mayor William Bell ordered the monuments covered on Tuesday, the Southern Heritage Group sent a letter to Marshall urging the state to intervene.

The President of the Southern History Protection Group Mike Williams released a statement:

“The Southern Historical Protection Group is saddened by the Mayor of Birmingham, who took it upon himself to cover the monuments to the brave men who fought for the State of Alabama in the War Between the States. Without re-arguing their sacrifices we feel that this is in violation of Alabama Law 2017-354 known as the Alabama Memorial Protection act which in section 3 states: “No monument which is located on public property and has been so situated for 20 or more years may be relocated, removed,  altered, renamed,  or otherwise disturbed without permission granted by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Williams continued, “We furthermore have asked the Attorney General of Alabama to enforce the law, fine the mayor and any other parties involved, and to remove the altering covering from the monument at Linn Park. We are doing our best to keep everyone from creating a situation such as in Charlottesville, however the tensions are high and we hope the mayor will see that this is going to cost him more that it corrects in his opinion.”

Former Morgan County Commissioner and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacy George (R) announced on social media, “Just filed an Ethics Complaint with the Alabama Ethics Commission in Montgomery on the Mayor Of Birmingham…Mayor Bell for the misuse of taxpayer money…$1431.41.”

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Mayor Bell faces a highly contested mayoral election on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.

The move by Bell was in response to news from Charlottesville, Virginia. A city where politicians moved to remove historic Confederate monuments from the city.  In response American Nazis, the KKK, and other alt-right extremists have engaged in a series of well-publicized street demonstrations that have morphed into street battles with Antifa, Black Lives Matter (BLM), and other alt-left extremists.  On Saturday a scheduled and permitted Nazi/white supremacist protest was confronted by a unpermitted counter protest by the alt-left.  One racist fanatic got mad and heartlessly attacked the self-proclaimed “Anti-fascists” by driving over them with his Dodge Challenger.  One 32-year-old lady, Heather Heyer, died in the cowardly and senseless attack.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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