Alabama judge overturns law that prevents removal of Confederate monuments

Alabama judge overturns law that prevents removal of Confederate monuments
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An Alabama judge overturned a state law that prevents the removal of Confederate monuments from public property, arguing it violated the free speech rights of local communities.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo issued a ruling late Monday which voided the 2017 Alabama state law that blocks local governments from removing monuments or renaming public schools that have stood for more than 40 years, The Associated Press reported.

Graffeo argued that the law, which barred the removal or alteration of historical monuments, infringed on the rights of citizens in Birmingham — a city that is predominately black.

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The state sued Birmingham after officials tried to remove a 52-foot tall monument honoring Confederate veterans. The city, instead of removing the monument, built a 12-foot wooden box to go around it. 

Birmingham’s population of 210,000 is more than 70 percent black, the AP noted. Graffeo wrote in his 10-page opinion that it was indisputable that most Birmingham citizens are “repulsed” by the memorial.

The judge also ruled that the $25,000 penalty for removing or altering a historical monument is unconstitutional.

The city has not paid the fine while the lawsuit was being pursed. The state could still appeal the ruling, AP reported.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the legislation in 2017 over the objections of black lawmakers and civil rights groups.

The law protected at least nine Confederate monuments around Alabama, including a cornerstone in the state capitol of Montgomery put in place by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The ruling came hours after Ivey’s inauguration following her reelection in November against Democratic challenger Walt Maddox.

Ivey touted the legislation she signed with a campaign ad tearing into Washington and its “politically correct nonsense.”

“We can’t change or erase our history, but here in Alabama, we know something Washington doesn’t — to get where we’re going means understanding where we’ve been,” she said in the ad. 

Graffeo's ruling came days after Texas officials unanimously voted to remove a Confederate plaque from the state Capitol that claims slavery was not the root cause of the Civil War.

The nationwide movement to remove Confederate monuments saw renewed attention in June 2015, following a mass shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine dead.

At least 113 Confederate monuments have been removed in the U.S. since 2015, according to a 2016 report from activist organization Southern Poverty Law Center.