The plan to move the Confederate monument that has been located on county property for about 100 years gained momentum this week when city officials learned the monument was given to the city in the early 1900s by the Alabama Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Following the surprise announcement at a Monday night meeting of the Lauderdale County Commission, Mayor Steve Holt said he will ask city council members at their July 7 meeting to approve moving the statue to the Soldier’s Rest area of the Florence City Cemetery.
If council members agree to do so, it meets the request of Project Say Something supporters to move the monument to that location.
There are a couple of roadblocks the city must hurdle.
Looming large is the state’s Memorial Preservation Act, which requires local governments to obtain state permission before moving or renaming historically significant buildings and monuments that date back 40 years or longer.
Attorney General Steve Marshall has made it clear he will enforce the act.
“The Alabama Monuments Preservation Act provides a singular avenue for enforcement — the filing of a civil complaint in pursuit of a fine, which the Alabama Supreme Court has determined to be a one-time assessment of $25,000. The act authorizes no additional relief,” Marshall said earlier this month after the mayor of city of Birmingham decided to move the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Linn Park.
Holt has indicated private donors have committed to pay the $25,000 fine should Marshall take the city to court, and those donors also will pay the costs of relocating the monument.
City council members indicated Tuesday they won’t vote to move the 17-ton monument until county officials provide them with a “hold-harmless permission” that allows the city to go onto county property to remove the monument, and do so without any liability concerns.
County officials should react quickly to give that authority to the city, and do so with a sigh of relief as it effectively eliminates the county from future obligations linked to the monument.
As a community, we should be happy with the process that has led to this decision. Project Say Something representatives offered a viable option for the location of the monument, and made sure the protests held against the monument were peaceful. City and county officials allowed representatives on both sides of the issue to offer their comments in public meetings, and then moved quickly to make a decision.
Compare that to the chaotic efforts to remove monuments in cities such as Birmingham and Richmond, Virginia, where threats of violence and destruction of property were commonplace.