As Memphis takes down two confederate statues, opponents say city is ‘breaking the law’

The culture war battle over Confederate statues continues.

On Wendesday, the Memphis City Council voted to remove two statues of prominent Civil War figures—Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Tennessee General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz, File)

Following the unanimous vote, both statues were lifted off by cranes and taken away under the supervision of a large police presence, WREG reports.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the two parks housing the Confederate monuments were sold to a private nonprofit called Memphis Greenspace, for the price of $1,000 each.

Memphis Greenspace will assume maintenance of the parks. The removal of the statues was privately funded. The city did not say where the monuments taken.

Of the removal, Strickland said that “history is being made in Memphis tonight.”

Opponents of the statues celebrated the move, which came as Americans prepare to remember the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis.

The Memphis NAACP praised Mayor Strickland and the city council in a statement.

“Today history is being made with the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis statutes from what are now privately-owned parks. The NAACP Memphis Branch took a position early on stating that we wanted the monuments removed and a legal process followed. The Memphis City Council and Mayor Jim Strickland heard the voices of the people who wanted these removed and legally made it happen. Groups like the NAACP and #Takeemdown901 led by Tami Sawyer have been heard.”

Forrest’s statue on Union Avenue, built in 1904, was the subject of controversy due to the legendary cavalryman’s participation in the early Ku Klux Klan, although he parted with the Klan and denounced its violence against blacks later in life.

Davis’ monument, which was placed downtown in 1964, was also removed.

The local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans blasted the statues’ removal and accused the city of violating the law.

“At this moment, the City of Memphis and the sham non-profit it supposedly sold these city parks to, which are located on downtown parcels worth millions for $1,000.00 each, are both in violation of the following statute,” the group wrote. “Not to mention the provisions of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.”

The fate of Confederate monuments has been a highly-charged topic in politics, and it seems that’s not likely to change soon.


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