Angry protesters on Sunday tried to destroy a Confederate monument in Linn Park in Birmingham and successfully tore down a statue.
The protesters defaced the Confederate monument, chipped away part of the concrete and pulled the wooden barrier off the base, according to WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham. The protestors successfully pulled down a statue believed to be of Civil War-era industrialist and Confederate Navy Captain Charles Linn.
— Brittany Dionne (@BrittanyDtvNews) June 1, 2020
The damage started about an hour after the “Birmingham, the World is Watching” rally, which aimed to serve as example of non-violent protest against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, WBRC reported.
Birmingham where confederate monument was just taken down pic.twitter.com/nXXiNZ3rfr
— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) June 1, 2020
Former Mayor William Bell had previously sought to remove the monument but was blocked by the Alabama Legislature, which passed the Memorials Preservation Act to protect Alabama’s historical monuments and buildings, including Confederate monuments.
Subsequent efforts by the City of Birmingham to remove or relocate the monument were thwarted by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s defense of the Memorial Preservation Act.
The Memorial Preservation Act was sponsored in the House by then State Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City.
“Watching live criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of property while Birmingham police simply walk away is really disheartening,” Butler told the Alabama Political Reporter. “These police officers are sworn to uphold the law yet simply turned their backs. I was proud to be the House sponsor for the law that protects all historical monuments and I would be just as upset if this was happening to any of our civil rights monuments.”
“Prayers for our state as we are so much better than this,” Butler concluded.
The Memorials Preservation Act was sponsored in the State Senate by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Trussville.
Allen brought legislation in the 2020 legislative session to increase the penalties placed on local governments who break the Memorials Preservation Act, but that legislation, like many others, was upended by the coronavirus crisis.
The full state Legislature only met once between March 12 and early May when they returned to pass the constitutionally required budgets, a state bond issue for schools and local legislation.
The city of Birmingham took their efforts to overturn the Memorials Preservation Act all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court where the law was upheld.
The Confederate Veterans honors the soldiers and sailors who fought for the Confederacy in the War between the States from 1861 to 1865.
A number of Alabama towns had said that they would be willing to take the monument when the city of Birmingham had sought to move it.
After attempting to bring down the Confederate Veterans monument, demonstrators attacked several businesses in the downtown area of Birmingham, including reportedly the Harbert Center, the Alabama Power Building, and many small businesses including Hero Donut and the Red Cat.
“Birmingham, this is not the road to reform. Do not destroy the community you worked to build,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said.
Birmingham, this is not the road to reform. Do not destroy the community you worked to build. pic.twitter.com/yDgW9JBdqF
— Randall Woodfin (@randallwoodfin) June 1, 2020
A reporter for AL.com was attacked. At least one TV reporter was struck in the head with a bottle, AL.com reported. The Birmingham Police Department fired tear gas on the protesters to try to disperse the crowd and protect businesses.
— Mac Jones Szn (@DrunkCoachGrant) June 1, 2020
Similar protests turned chaotic and violent all over the U.S. over the weekend in response Floyd’s death during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department for allegedly distributing counterfeit federal notes. Many of the protests have also been peaceful.
Floyd, a black man, was videotaped as he was held immobilized by police officers on a street, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, for more the eight minutes. Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe. Officers ignored Floyd’s pleas and the pleas of bystanders that officers stop putting pressure on the man’s neck.
Floyd eventually passed out and died. Derek Chauvin, 44, the police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s kneck, was taken into custody on charges including murder and manslaughter that carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.
Protests in Washington D.C. got so bad that the Secret Service moved President Donald Trump to a secure bunker underneath the White House.
The National Park Service reported on Twitter that a number of monuments on the National Mall have been vandalized by protestors over the weekend. The extent of the damage is not clear as of press time.