FLORENCE — Three Lauderdale County residents have filed a lawsuit calling for an injunction to preserve the Confederate monument's location in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse.
The group also has asked for a determination on who owns the monument.
The suit, filed in Lauderdale County Circuit Court by Ralph Long, Angela Laughlin and Ray Styles, calls for a judgment "to protect and preserve" the monument in front of the courthouse "so that the Lauderdale County public is not deprived by the city of Florence and Lauderdale County of this historic and irreplaceable monument."
Defendants in the suit include Mayor Steve Holt, the City Council, Lauderdale County, the Lauderdale County Commission, the Alabama Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Suzanna E. Rawlins in her capacity as president of the UDC division.
The suit comes amid a call led by Project Say Something to move the monument to Soldier's Rest in Florence City Cemetery. There have been numerous protests at the courthouse for and against moving the monument.
Holt and all six council members said they favor moving it, but would not do so without a resolution from the commission allowing them to do so since it is on county property.
Lauderdale commissioners said they will not pass the resolution because a 2017 state law prevents moving a monument that has been in place at least 40 years.
The monument was dedicated in 1903 at the courthouse square and moved to the courthouse in 1965, according to the lawsuit, which calls the monument "Eternal Vigil."
It states the monument is important to residents in the county because it is a "Source of pride of their Southern heritage," and a means to remember their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Rawlins is listed as a defendant after Lauderdale County Commission Chairman Danny Pettus presented the city with a letter from her that declares the city owns the statue.
The lawsuit also alleges conspiracy and racketeering, claiming Holt used his office to attempt to violate the law by moving the monument, and he solicited money toward the cost of moving it and paying fines associated with the move.
Holt has said local private business leaders have pledged funds to cover the cost of moving the statue and placing it at Soldier's Rest, as well as a $25,000 fine that is part of the 2017 state law for moving the monument.
The lawsuit requests a declaratory judgment to determine who owns the monument, stating the city has "no lawful right to exercise control" of it.
It contends the state division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy "may possess equitable rights in Eternal Vigil because of its 1903 placement of him on public property." It also suggests the county government may be the monument's legal owner in public trust.