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Protests renew scrutiny of Alabama’s Confederate monuments

The Confederate monument in Birmingham's Linn Park has been fully removed. (Source: City of Birmingham / WBRC)
The Confederate monument in Birmingham's Linn Park has been fully removed. (Source: City of Birmingham / WBRC)(WTVY News 4)
Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 10:18 AM CDT
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Confederate monuments in several parts of Alabama have been targeted during recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Monday night, a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Montgomery was taken down and a monument in Mobile was vandalized. Tuesday night, Birmingham officials removed the remainder of a monument honoring Confederate soldiers in Linn Park.

Questions are again being raised on whether Confederate monuments should continue to stand.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, says the SPLC wants these monuments in a museum or archives building where historical context can be provided.

“They should be in museums where they can be studied properly in context,” Brooks said. “We believe that they are symbols of the Confederacy of course, which are symbols of white supremacy, and a disdain and dehumanization of African Americans. They should not be in public space.”

Brooks said while the monuments should be removed, SPLC does not advocate for their destruction.

“What the protesters are trying to say is that they want us to pay attention to the systemic racism that keeps African Americans you know, in bondage,” Brooks added.

The

, passed in 2017 by the Alabama Legislature, protects architecturally significant buildings, memorial buildings, memorial streets, and monuments located on public property for 40 or more years.

Jay Hinton, a lawyer who helped pass the act, said the monuments are meant to help preserve history and honor the dead.

“When we put up monuments to dead people, we memorialize their life in their contribution, and we don’t measure whether that person did everything exactly right," Hinton explained. "Whether they had proper political beliefs now or at the time. We don’t. We honor them.”

Hinton said it is no different than a graveyard or cemetery.

“We don’t walk through the graveyard and pick and choose whose headstone gets knocked down and who says down stays up because of their political beliefs,” he said.

Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a new lawsuit against Birmingham for its removal of the Confederate monument in Linn Park Tuesday. The lawsuit is similar to one filed by the state in 2017, which the city lost.

According to the suit, Marshall said taking the historic monument down is in violation of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. The lawsuit is seeking additional penalties.

Grover Plunkett, a professor at Faulkner University said it is a slippery slope to begin taking down Confederate monuments. Plunkett said it could set a precedent and lead to other non-Confederate monuments being taken down in the future.

Plunkett also believes it doesn't fix the root problem.

“The monument is simply a symptom of the problem oftentimes. And if we can address the cause of the problem, then I think we would have a better path to peace and in harmony,” Plunkett said.

Rayford Mack is the former president of the Metro Montgomery NAACP. Mack wants local governments to have control over whether to take down monuments.

According to the Memorial Preservation Act, removing, modifying, or moving a monument requires a certain process or paying a fee.

“This is just another part of where our state legislature, the governor, is trying to usurp the authority of the county and city government,” Mack said. “Because they are duly represented elected officials of that city or county. We are not trying to rewrite history.”

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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