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VOL. 133 | NO. 22 | Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Court Holds Up Sale or Transfer Of Confederate Monuments

By Bill Dries

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A Nashville Chancellor Monday barred the sale or transfer of Confederate monuments removed last month from two city parks sold to a nonprofit. 

UPDATE: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle issued a second court order Tuesday, Jan. 30, that orders all sides in the litigation to enter into mediation on possible new locations for the removed monuments.

The response from city chief legal officer Bruce McMullen: “Today the Court followed up on her Order from yesterday with an Order for the parties to mediate an appropriate home for the statues. Nothing in this Order is inconsistent with the position the City has taken in this matter. The City has always been open to working with all interested parties on a permanent solution. However, it should be noted that the City no longer owns these statues; they are the property of Memphis Greenspace.”

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A Nashville chancellor ordered the nonprofit organization that bought two city parks in December and removed Confederate monuments in them to keep and preserve the monuments at least pending a hearing by the Tennessee Historical Commission on their removal from the parks.

The ruling by Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle came Monday, Jan. 29, in a legal challenge by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to the Dec. 20 removal of the monuments to Confederacy president Jefferson Davis, Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as a bust of Confederate Captain Harvey Mathes by Memphis Greenspace Inc.

The sale of Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park to Memphis Greenspace for $1,000 each was approved last month by the Memphis City Council and the monuments were removed that same evening.

The ruling Monday denies a request by the SCV chapter to inspect the monuments for any damage.

"We anticipated that this matter would be challenged legally at every level," city chief legal officer Bruce McMullen said in a written statement. "We are confident that our actions will withstand that scrutiny and those challenges. This court order requires Greenspace to continue to preserve the statues."

Memphis Greenspace president Van Turner has said the monuments will not be damaged in any way and that the nonprofit has had offers to obtain them from several organizations including a Jefferson Davis museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, and a white nationalist group as well as the descendants of Mathes.

Turner said Monday that the nonprofit is "continuing to do exactly as the court ordered."

"We promise to fulfill our mission by preserving the statues, ensuring the safety of our parks and activating our plan through collaborative programming and community engagement," Turner said in a written statement.

The ruling Monday sets the stage for an anticipated legal argument over whether the historical commission has any jurisdiction once a public park is sold. Lyle’s order sets the historical commission hearing within the next two months.

Opposing attorneys are also expected to clash on whether the Forrest monument was a part of the headstone marking the graves of Forrest and his wife or separate from the graves.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 52 151
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751
BANKRUPTCIES 37 157 618
BUSINESS LICENSES 12 77 276
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0