The state of Alabama has taken legal action against the city of Birmingham after officials ordered city workers to cover a Confederate monument in a public park.
Mayor William Bell ordered the 52-foot-tall monument in Linn Park to be covered with wooden paneling Tuesday in an attempt to bypass an Alabama law passed earlier this year that prohibits the removal of structures that have been in place for more than 40 years.
The monument — a memorial to Confederate soldiers— was dedicated in 1905 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and would be protected under that law. Bell opted to have the statue covered while the city’s attorneys began looking for legal ways to remove it.
Removing statues and memorials tied to the Confederate South has been an on-again-off-again issue in recent years, but a violent protest of Charlottesville, Virginia’s removal of a similar monument last weekend has reignited the debate across the country.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed suit against the city of Birmingham and Bell Wednesday, claiming the city had violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act by having the monument in Linn Park covered.
“In accordance with the law, my office has determined that by affixing tarps and placing plywood around the Linn Park Memorial such that it is hidden from view, [Bell and the city] have ‘altered’ or ‘otherwise disturbed’ the memorial in violation of the letter and spirit of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act,” Marshall wrote in a statement. “The City of Birmingham does not have the right to violate the law and leaves my office with no choice but to file suit.”
The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which was passed in response to national momentum for the removal of structures tied to the Confederacy, prohibits not just the removal of those protected fixtures but also their alteration or disturbance.
A violation of the law can generate a fine of up to $25,000, and at least one group in the Huntsville area has been raising money since May to cover the cost of that violation as a part of its efforts to see a Confederate monument removed from the Madison County Courthouse.
The developments in Birmingham and Huntsville are two of many efforts in the cities around the country to remove similar monuments including Baltimore, Maryland.; Lexington, Kentucky.; Gainesville, Florida.; Tampa, Florida; Pensacola, Florida, and Durham, North Carolina — where activists already illegally removed one statue earlier this week.