Pressured by protests, Birmingham mayor removes controversial Confederate monument
Cities across the country are experiencing civil unrest as protesters take to the streets, calling for police reform and justice in the killings of George Floyd and other black men and women. Response to these protests has been varied, but several communities are looking for ways to work with the protestors, to listen to their demands and act on them.
Earlier this week, protestors in Birmingham, Ala., successfully tore down and vandalized several confederate monuments in the city, finally setting their sights set on a five-story-tall, century-old monument to confederate troops that had become a touchstone of controversy in recent years, according to NPR. Rather than allow protestors to knock down the Confederate Sailors and Soldiers Monument – potentially putting themselves in harm’s way and damaging more property – Mayor Randall Woodfin instead begged the crowd to allow the city to remove it.
On Sunday, the mayor made a speech to the crowd at the monument site using a megaphone to amplify his voice. “Allow me to finish the job for you,” he asked, telling him the job would be done by midday on Tuesday. “I wanted you to hear it directly from me. But I need you to stand down.” City crews came in, and by Tuesday afternoon little remained of the obelisk.
However, Woodfin’s actions weren’t without detractors, and they even prompted legal consequence – the state’s Attorney General Steve Marshall announced a lawsuit against the city on Tuesday, stating the demolition of the monument was in violation of Alabama’s Memorial Preservation act, which was passed in 2017 to “protect architecturally significant buildings, memorial buildings, memorial streets and monuments located on public property for 40 or more years,” a local NBC affiliate reports.
A $25,000 fine is expected to be leveled against the city, as it was when the monument was partially covered in 2017 during protests related to the killing of Freddie Gray in Ferguson, Mo. the TV station reports. The mayor, however, stands behind his decision, telling AL.com he’s willing to accept the fine because it’s far lower than the cost of the civil unrest in the city.
In a press conference on Tuesday he said he was “very moved by the outpouring of support,” and said the monument’s removal is indicative of the city’s desire to heal, Newsweek reports.
“This action is a very, very powerful symbol of our city’s desire to move beyond the pain of the past and uniting into the future,” he said.