The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled Wednesday that the City of Birmingham (“City”) violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act (“Preservation Act”) by erecting a plywood barrier around a Confederate monument in August 2017.
The order to erect the barrier came from then-Mayor William Bell and was intended to obscure inscriptions honoring Confederate veterans. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument was dedicated to the City in 1905 by the Pelham Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument has remained in Charles Linn Park since its dedication.
Following Bell’s 2017 order, the State filed action against the City, alleging that the barrier violated a part of the Preservation Act which provides that “no… monument which is located on public property and has been so situated for 40 or more years may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, or otherwise disturbed.”
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo ruled in January that protection of the monument “deprive[d] the City of its constitutionally protected speech, as well as… its constitutional right to due process.” This decision was reversed by the all-Republican state supreme court, which instead fined the City $25,000 for violating the Preservation Act.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall expressed support for the ruling, calling it “a victory for the Alabama law which seeks to protect historical monuments.” In a city that is nearly 70% black, however, many citizens remain disappointed by the decision.