Alabama attorney general sues Birmingham for partially covering Confederate monument
After Saturday's car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, many local officials are again debating whether to remove or relocate the Confederate statues and other historical markers in their cities.
While Baltimore hastily removed four of theirs with the approval of its city council, protesters in Durham, North Carolina toppled one before any officials could act.
But on Wednesday, Alabama's attorney general sued the city of Birmingham and the mayor for partially covering a Confederate monument downtown with a wooden box.
Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that the move violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which was passed earlier this year and prohibits local officials from removing historical structures, including Confederate monuments, that are more than 40 years old.
"The city of Birmingham does not have the right to violate the law and leaves my office with no choice but to file suit," Marshall said in a statement.
City workers worked late Tuesday night to erect four wooden panels around a 52-foot Confederate monument in Birmingham, Alabama, days after a white nationalist rally ended in a violent car attack that killed one counter-protester in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After painting the panels black, the workers nailed them together to form a box high enough to cover the obelisk's inscription. The memorial in question honors Confederate soldiers and sailors and is located in Linn Park in downtown Birmingham. The United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated the monument in 1905.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell responded to the litigation in a statement provided by spokesperson April Odom: "We look forward to the court system clarifying the rights and power of a municipality to control its parks absent state intervention."
Bell's office told the Associated Press that the mayor is investigating options to challenge Alabama's law.
The backdrop of Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the city's downtown. What's the story behind such monuments and why do we continue to struggle with the legacy of the Civil War? Edward Ayers of the University of Richmond joins William Brangham to offer some historical context.
When Alabama enacted it new historical marker law in May, the Southern Poverty Law Center opposed the move. SPLC legal director Rhonda Brownstein, then, said the act was "not about preserving our [Alabama's] history, but about protecting Confederate monuments that celebrate white supremacy and a time in which an entire race was enslaved and oppressed."
Brownstein went on to say that other states had relocated their Confederate monuments to museums, "where people can learn the full history of slavery, the Civil War and the Confederacy. That's where they belong."
Mayoral candidate Frank Matthews protested the monument being covered Tuesday night, local TV station WIAT reported. Matthews argued that the monument wasn't obscured when Dylann Roof shot and killed nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, so why would officials cover it now.
"This is not rabble rousing. I'm speaking to what is wrong," Matthews told WIAT while nearby the monument. "You didn't take it down when nine people were killed. Nine black people in a church," he said.