Moving Confederate statues could prove costly for Memphis

Cheryl Sanders
April 19, 2018

The Tennessee House of Representatives pulled $250,000 in funding from Memphis in protest of the city's removal of Confederate monuments from public parks.

In a 56-31 vote on Tuesday, Tennessee House members approved a last-minute amendment to remove $250,000 that was allocated to the city of Memphis.

Parkinson went on to express how fed up he was regarding how much lawmakers revered General Forrest, a slave owner, slave trader and first leader of the Ku Klux Klan, "as if he was God, as if he was an idol".

Confederate statues have become a major flashpoint in a national race debate.

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) noted that "bad actions" have "bad consequences".

The removals came after years of disputes over what to do with the controversial statues.

"What this amendment does is it removes $250,000 from the budget that is designated to go to the city of Memphis for their bicentennial celebration", McDaniel said on the House floor.

But Republicans were not moved, and the amendment passed with a strong majority.

Rep. Antonio Parkinson began to call the amendment vile and racist before being cut off by boos from fellow lawmakers. But I'll tell you something: I don't support this, and I think if you do it you're being ugly. A bust of a Confederate soldier was also removed.

Past year the city of Memphis, which is majority black, was able to find a legal loophole to get rid of two Confederate statues and a bust by selling city parks to a nonprofit, which swiftly removed the monuments. To proceed with the removal, they sought a waiver from the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, a law that governs the removal, relocation or renaming of memorials on public property. In addition to letting the city sell land to a private entity, the law allowed the private entity to remove statutes from its land.

At least two online fundraisers have been set up to replace the lost bicentennial budget. But Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland insisted the entire process was within the bounds of the law.

One of the Memphis statues was dedicated to Jefferson Davis, the president of pro-slavery Confederacy in the US Civil War of 1861-65. Then, in 2015, they voted to move the Forrest statue.

The city's decision to remove the monuments came amid a national wave of United States municipalities moving to tear down Confederate iconography from public spaces. The city took an unconventional route that critics said was illegal.

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