Earlier this month, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin yielded to protestors’ demands to remove the controversial Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument from Linn Park.
The statue was driven to an undisclosed location — for its protection, Woodfin said — and the city was promptly sued by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall for violating the state’s Memorial Preservation Act. Marshall has said he will be seeking a $25,000 penalty.
On Tuesday, the City Council voted to pay a different $25,000 fine associated with the Confederate statue — this one resulting from the actions of former Mayor William Bell, who ordered the statue covered by a black plywood barrier in August 2017.
That barrier, which enclosed the base of the statue but left much of the obelisk exposed, “alter(ed) and otherwise disturb(ed)” the statue, Marshall argued, and thus violated the law.
That court case stretched on for years. One Jefferson County judge declared the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act unconstitutional, but that ruling was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court in November 2019. The state initially sought damages of $25,000 per day that the statue was covered, an amount that would have totaled $20.85 million. The Supreme Court opted instead for a single $25,000 penalty, which is what the council approved payment of Tuesday.
The fine for the statue’s complete removal will come later, but Woodfin has indicated he’s prepared to accept it, saying that $25,000 “is a lower cost than civil unrest in our city.”
Even so, District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams said during Tuesday’s meeting that he hoped the state would reconsider its lawsuit, considering that removals of Confederate monuments have taken place throughout the state over the past month.
“I hope the state of Alabama realizes that the good people of Mobile, the good people of Huntsville, the good people of Anniston and the good people of the University of Alabama — Roll Tide — are all doing the same thing,” Williams said. “Hopefully they can reconsider an additional $25,000 (fine).”