Alabama AG criticizes Confederate monument removals

November 27, 2020 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall this week warned local governments against tearing down Confederate statues, and other monuments, that he said “are protected under Alabama law.”

Marshall issued a video message Monday chiding elected officials who have voted to remove such monuments in violation of the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. The message came after Marshall’s office filed a court challenge over Madison County’s removal of a Confederate soldier statue at its courthouse. It is the fifth legal action filed against a local entity for violating the 2017 law, the attorney general’s office said.

“First, any elected official who removes a historic monument or statue in violation of Alabama law has broken the law. He has not simply decided to ‘pay a fee’ so that he can lawfully have the monument or statue removed. He has committed an illegal act,” Marshall said.

“Despite what some newspapers might have you believe, any elected official who disregards the duties of his office in this manner has done so not out of courage but has done so out of fear. This should not be celebrated, for disregarding the law subverts our democratic system.”

The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act prohibits relocating, removing, altering or renaming public buildings, streets and memorials that have been standing for more than 40 years. The legislation doesn’t specifically mention Confederate monuments, but it was enacted as some Southern states and cities began removing monuments and emblems of the Confederacy.

Marshall’s office is asking a judge to levy a one-time fine of $25,000 against the Madison County Commission as allowed for violations of the act. Similar actions have been brought against other cities, including Birmingham and Mobile.

Critics of the 2017 law have said local communities should have the ability to make those decisions about monuments on city and county lands. Some lawmakers have sought unsuccessfully to repeal the 2017 law.

A Jefferson County legislator has proposed what she hopes could be a compromise.

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan has introduced legislation for the 2021 legislative session that would allow local communities to remove the statues and place them at the Confederate Memorial Park or another public site.