Alabama moves to protect Confederate monuments

Alabama moves to protect Confederate monuments

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) this week signed legislation that will preempt cities and counties from removing monuments to the Confederacy from public property, over the objections of black lawmakers and civil rights groups.

The legislation comes after the city of New Orleans removed several statues honoring Confederate figures in recent weeks. The measure’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Gerald Allen (R), said he hoped to end the “wave of political correctness” sweeping the nation.

“Where does it end? Are all parts of American history subject to purging, until every Ivy League professor is satisfied and the American story has been re-written as nothing but a complete fraud and a betrayal of our founding values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Allen said.

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The bill will block local governments from removing monuments that have been on public property for more than 40 years. It also prevents renaming public schools that have stood for 40 years.

There are at least nine confederate monuments around Alabama that would be protected under the law, including a monument at the state capitol in Montgomery, the cornerstone of which was laid by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. A Birmingham park board decided to remove one of those monuments in 2015.

Opponents of the measure said the monuments celebrate white supremacy and honor the slavery the Confederacy sought to preserve.

“These racist symbols have no place on government property, where they counter our nation’s core principle to ensure liberty and justice for all,” Rhonda Brownstein, legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. “By signing this bill, Gov. Kay Ivey indicates that lauding white supremacy is more important than demonstrating equality for all Alabamians.”

Efforts to remove Confederate monuments have been greeted by protests, including some that harken back to an age when the Ku Klux Klan played a significant role in Southern politics. Torch-wielding protestors opposed the removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month. 

New Orleans has removed four Confederate monuments in recent weeks, some in the dark of night under police guard. Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) first proposed moving the statues after the mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, which left nine dead.