/Watch: Birmingham taking down Confederate monument

Watch: Birmingham taking down Confederate monument


Workers on Monday night began the process of taking down the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park – the focal point of protests that turned into unrest in the city Sunday night and early Monday.

The removal of the monument comes on the 212th birthday – June 1 – of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. The holiday is still celebrated as a state holiday in Alabama.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin vowed to work quickly to remove the Confederate monument demonstrators tried to tear down Sunday night, though he did not give a time frame or specifics. As of Monday evening, concrete barricades were being brought in to block off the streets surrounding the park and a flatbed truck bearing the name of a demolition company sat idle in front of Birmingham City Hall, as did at least one other piece of heavy machinery.

A large crane arrived and just after 10 p.m. the top section of the obelisk was removed. The second section was removed an hour later.

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Workers on Monday night began the process of taking down the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park.

About an hour before the crane arrived nearly a dozen protesters were arrested in the park.

The monument in Linn Park has been the subject of a legal fight between Birmingham and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office over a state historical monuments law. The City of Birmingham has wanted it removed but has lost a legal fight with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

As protesters’ efforts failed to remove the statue Sunday night, comedian Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson told the crowd gathered there that Woodfin had asked for 24 hours to get the monuments removed. He was met with some resistance as protesters wanted to move forward with the destruction. Demonstrators did chip away at the monument and spray painted words on it before attempts to topple to tall obelisk failed.

Johnson, who earlier on Sunday had suggested to a crowd that the monument should be removed, told the crowd later that night that the mayor and his team deserved that time to get it done legally but he finished by saying, “But if that shit ain’t down by Tuesday morning, I will see you here at 12 Tuesday.”

Woodfin on Monday said, “The Legislature enacted a law that prevented cities from removing Confederate statues in the state of Alabama for all 169 cities, so Birmingham is not alone in this fight. Moving forward, what took place in the park put many of the residents and the peaceful protesters in physical danger. In addition to that, it could possible put our officers in danger.”

“In order to prevent more civil unrest, it is very imperative that we remove this statue in Linn Park. That has a cost to it’’ Woodfin said. “I understand the AG’s office can bring a civil suit against the city and if there’s a judgement rendered from a judge, then we should be held accountable and I am willing to accept that because that is a lower cost than civil unrest in our city.”

AL.com coverage of protests

Following Woodfin’s Monday-morning press conference, Attorney General Steve Marshall said the Alabama Monuments Preservation Act provides a singular avenue for enforcement — the filing of a civil complaint in pursuit of a fine – which the Alabama Supreme Court has determined to be a one-time assessment of $25,000. The Act authorizes no additional relief.

“Should the City of Birmingham proceed with the removal of the monument in question, based upon multiple conversations I have had today, city leaders understand I will perform the duties assigned to me by the Act to pursue a new civil complaint against the city,’’ Marshall said. “In the aftermath of last night’s violent outbreak, I have offered the City of Birmingham the support and resources of my office to restore peace to the city.”

A Go Fund Me page was created to help the city pay any fines. By 10 p.m. Monday the account had raised nearly $45,000 of a goal of $50,000. “Once collected the $50,000 raised here will be sent to Birmingham City for the fine that will be incurred with the statues removal from Linn Park. Anything beyond that $50,000 that is raised will go to Faith in Action Alabama in their multi-faith and multi-racial work to end systemic racism in Alabama.”

The statue was dedicated in 1905 after years of fundraising efforts led by prominent Birmingham citizens gathered $4,000. At the dedication, there was a parade of 1,000, including Birmingham students, police and firefighters.

“The manner of their death, was the crowning glory of their lives,” a quote from Confederate President Jefferson Davis reads on one of the obelisk’s inscriptions.

The Alabama Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that the city of Birmingham violated Alabama’s monument protection law when it placed a plywood screen around the monument in Linn Park in August 2017. The court said the city would have to pay a $25,000 fine.

The plywood was placed there on orders of former Birmingham Mayor William Bell after the state passed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act in 2017 in response to removals and calls for removal of Confederate monuments on public property. Marshall filed a lawsuit against Birmingham for block the view of the monument.

Protests over the death of George Floyd a week earlier by a Minnesota police officer turned toward take down of the monument.

On Monday, a steady stream of onlookers filed past the defaced monument from dawn until past dusk following the overnight riots in the city. Late Monday afternoon, The Birmingham Foot Soldiers, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Birmingham Urban League and the National Action Network addressed the unrest and again called for the monument to be removed. Those who spoke at the press conference included William Barnes, Urban League’s CEO, Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson, Isaiah Armstrong of the Foot Soldiers and longtime civil rights activist Bishop Calvin Woods of the SCLC.

“The people of this city demand this monument be removed,’’ Barnes said, “so we’re going on record, the civil rights community, and we’re asking all leaders…to have this monument removed immediately.”

“It is nothing more than scratching the sore of what we’ve seen in this community for multiple years,’’ he said. “And with the recent deaths of many across the nation, we say enough is enough. We are done dying and we’re done being reminded of the atrocities against African Americans.”

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