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Alabama’s complicated history often spoken in the passive, takes rare turn into active voice

By Fletcher Allen, Reporter

In Birmingham, protests for racial justice have caused the state to reexamine the legitimacy of hundreds of Alabama’s Confederate monuments, which have divided many, including Alabama attorney general, Steve Marshall, who has sent lawsuits to multiple municipalities for violating the state’s memorial preservation law.

May 25, 2017, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act into law, which made it illegal to remove any historically significant monuments or buildings without prior approval from the state government. Violators are subject to a $25,000 fine.

This law created the Alabama Monument Protection Committee, a group of 11 members who decide whether historic buildings and monuments may be moved or renamed and applies to any monument or building which has been on public property for more than 40 years.

A bipartisan group of legislators, including Rep. Hank Sanders, Rep. Alvin Holmes, and Rep. Juandalynn Givan said the bill was offensive and aimed at preserving Confederate monuments.

Protests began in downtown Birmingham on May 31 — demanding racial justice and police reform following the murder of George Floyd. Protestors gathered in downtown’s many outdoor parks, like Linn Park, home of a Confederate obelisk erected in 1905 by the group “Daughters of the Confederacy.”

Many calls have been made by politicians and activists to remove the monument, to no avail.

Protestors walked from Kelly Ingram Park to Linn Park and took it upon themselves to remove the Linn Park obelisk. People took rocks and broken chunks of concrete, trying to break the tower down. They also tried to set it on fire and topple it, which did not work.

During this, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin made his way to the middle of the crowd with a megaphone and said within 24 hours, the monument would be taken down. The following evening, a construction crew dismantled the monument and removed it from the park.

Before the obelisk was even fully removed, Alabama attorney general Steven Marshall planned to take legal action and fine the city of Birmingham $25,000 dollars for violating the AMPA. In a recent radio interview, Marshall called the removal of Confederate monuments bowing to “mob rule.”

Curiously, a Confederate monument was removed in the port city of Mobile, Alabama within a few days of the Birmingham one, but charges have not been brought to Mobile yet. And when they have, it’s likely to be a monetary fine.

Critics of the state government’s handling of the monuments point to an obvious reason for Marshall’s inconsistency. As Birmingham News columnist Kyle Whitmire points out, Mobile’s white Republican mayor and Birmingham’s black Democrat mayor are being treated differently.

In a June 9 press release, Marshall’s officesaid, “A lawsuit has been drafted… but cannot be filed until we can properly allege the facts.”

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Made By Students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham