Since Birmingham removed the Confederate Statue can the State Fine the City?
July 1, 2020 | View PDF
Not only can the State of Alabama, through the Attorney General, sue the city of Birmingham, but also they have. The 2017 Alabama Preservation Memorial Act was used when its former mayor had plywood sheets placed around the monument. The mayor said that the $25,000 fine was less than the price of civil unrest.
But now with the killing of George Floyd, splinter groups of ANTIFA and anarchists have wrongfully attached themselves to disrupt the rightful and peaceful protestors that want their voices heard and changes made. When the protests headed to Linn Park in Birmingham, the current mayor, under cover of darkness, had the Confederate statue removed. On 2 June, Attorney General Steve Marshall, who is tasked with upholding law on behalf of the State, sued
Birmingham for $25,000 and other damages as the Court sees fit. The statue resides on public land and has done so for more than the statutory forty years. Though the city administration is to the contrary, I imagine that the city will seek to mitigate their wrongful action by claiming the removal was to protect the statue from harm, since statutes in other states (including that of Christopher Columbus) have been torn down and damaged. In the same vein, it was the
decision of the city of Mobile to remove the C.S.A. Admiral Semmes statue, which has been on public property for 120 years. The media reports that the city of Mobile has agreed to pay the $25,000 fine without court order. I am not familiar whether there are any defendants in the removal of Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee statue.
For several years, there have been those that have wanted to remove all reminders of the Confederacy. One hundred fifty-five years removed can cause apathy even among the descendants of Confederate soldiers, but I’m not sure how you try to make the average American forget about 600,000 military deaths, with almost all occurring on American soil. How do reasonably curious people forget about the misery and property damage that occurred during the War and continued for years afterwards in a reconstructed South, where property damage included burned homes, farms and whole cities? And if you think the whole War Between the States was only about the horrible institution of slavery, then you had the same history teachers that most of us had and have not looked further for the whole truth. Since income tax did not exist in 1861, much of the money raised to fund the Federal government came from the tariffs associated with the sale of cotton to foreigners. What government could let their cash cow go?
Horace Greely received a letter from Abraham Lincoln in August 1862 that said, “ …To the policy I ‘seem to be pursuing’ as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
“I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’ If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”
It seems Mr. Lincoln did not really care about slaves as much as people believe until he adopted the “new view” he believed he needed to gain the support of abolitionists. A few short months later, in 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This gained the support of the abolitionists, and the first black Union soldiers joined the ranks in 1863.
The monuments and holidays honoring the Confederacy are important to many people all around the country, including myself. Out of my ten great-great or great-great-great grandfathers that fought for the South, one died of disease the day after his 40th birthday, some were injured or wounded, and a couple were captured near the end of the War. Certainly none of them profited from the zwar. The same month that Mr. Lincoln wrote Mr. Greely, one of my elderly grandfathers wrote a letter to his brother.