Alabama lawmakers pass bill to protect Confederate monuments

Alabama lawmakers pass bill to protect Confederate monuments
Lawmakers in Alabama have passed a bill which, if signed into law, would protect any historical monuments in the state, including those honoring members of the Confederacy, from removal. It comes as other Southern states are removing Confederate symbols.

The Monument Preservation Act, bill SB60, would prohibit cities and counties from relocation, alternation, renaming or other disturbance of “architecturally significant” buildings, memorials, memorial streets or monuments on public property for 40 or more years, according to AP.

Senator Gerald Allen, a Republican sponsor of the bill, blasted what he perceived as a “wave of political correctness” assailing monuments dedicated to people who he says, despite having flaws, were important to history.

The bill’s passage through the Legislature caused bitter debate, with supporters arguing it would preserve Alabama’s history, while critics contended the bill blocked attempts to remove Confederate monuments and would help enshrine the legacy of slaveholders and white supremacists.

Black lawmakers have equated protecting the monuments with “protecting oppression” and fought the bill throughout the legislative process.

"This type of legislation ... continues to put Alabama in a negative light, which it is known for racism, discrimination," said Democratic Rep. Juandalynn Givan, in April according to AL.com.

"Man, the Civil War is over with," Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes said on the House floor. "The South lost the Civil War. I don't care how bad you wanted to win."

Black lawmakers used procedural tactics to try to prevent its passage Friday, but were unsuccessful, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s office said on Monday the bill is still undergoing routine legal review. The governor has 10 days to sign an act once it has been passed and enrolled by the Legislature. 

One of Alabama’s large monuments is the Confederate Memorial Monument, which sits on the north side of the State Capitol Grounds. The 88ft monument was dedicated in 1989 and would be protected under the legislation. Another monument was slated to be removed from a Birmingham park in 2015, but a lawsuit prevented this.

The Alabama Political Reporter said sources think the governor might be facing pressure from national corporations which are considering moves to the state and have asked her not to sign the law.

Ivey’s office said she would make a decision this week on whether to sign the law.
The legislation comes at a time when officials all over the South are trying to decide what the best course of action is on Confederate monuments and memorials.

In Louisiana, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 in 2015 to remove the monuments after a succession of contentious public meetings where impassioned monument supporters and opponents heckled each other.

This year, contractors covering their faces and wearing bulletproof vests and helmets for safety have removed many memorials under cover of darkness.

During the removal of The White Rebellion memorial, police arrested multiple protesters who were charged with disturbing the peace, after a scuffle occurred at an event celebrating the step.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for the memorials to be removed following the emotional aftermath of the Charleston church shootings in South Carolina. Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, shot and killed nine black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Shortly after the massacre, a website Roof made was discovered. It contained pictures of the killer posing with the Confederate battle flag, recharging the debate over whether Confederate emblems represent racism or an honorable heritage.