VOL. 132 | NO. 177 | Wednesday, September 6, 2017
City Moves Closer to Confederate Statue Removal
By Andy Meek
The Memphis City Council has passed the first of three votes on a resolution that declares “all Confederate statues and artifacts … on City-owned property public nuisances” and also sets up a framework for the city to remove those statues even without approval from the state.
Removal of the controversial statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park and President Jefferson Davis from Memphis Park is set to proceed down dual tracks toward the same end goal. That end goal, per the council resolution that’s set for the final of three required votes Oct. 3, is the council recommending a policy of “immediate removal” of the statues.
The dual track is as follows: the Tennessee Historical Commission is set to take action on the city’s request for a waiver that would allow it to remove the statues on Oct. 13. Meanwhile, the council resolution recommending the statues’ immediate removal – with or without state approval – is proceeding toward its final approval.
The council resolution is set to become official no earlier than Oct. 13, to give the state commission in the words of council attorney Allan Wade “time to do the right thing.”
If they don’t? “This ordinance says unleash the dogs,” Wade told council members.
That’s a reference to the resolution’s text positioning any city effort to remove the statues in terms of preserving the constitutional rights of citizens. The resolution walks through some of the history of the civil rights era, why the statues were erected in the first place and the implications of their presence.
“There is no justification for those statues to be there,” Wade said, adding that they represent an “affront to every African-American citizen in Memphis.”
The council resolution cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision which held that denial “of the use of city facilities solely because of their race is without warrant.” That’s a justification, Wade said, for the city preparing to take action - as it’s now begun to do - with or without an okay from the state.
“A violation of someone’s constitutional rights takes precedence over state law,” Wade said.