UPDATED — Birmingham finished removing the base of the Confederate monument in Linn Park this morning after working for more than 24 hours to take down the structure that had become a lightning rod for racial protest in the city.
Mayor Randall Woodfin agreed to remove the monument after a crowd of protestors were drawn to the park Sunday night to try to topple it. They covered it in graffiti and chipped out chunks of it, along with taking down another statue and defacing two more. As they left the park, they set small fires and smashed windows of some downtown businesses.
In reaction, Birmingham and other cities on Tuesday declared and extended curfews aimed at shutting down such violent protests.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday afternoon that he was expanding the city’s curfew, covering the period of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., to include a 24-hour prohibition on “gatherings, parades, marches and demonstrations … on any public property or public street.”
The Jefferson County Commission also issued a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. through June 9, affecting unincorporated areas of the county. It excludes people traveling to obtain medical assistance, food or other services necessary to “sustain the well-being of themselves or their families…”
County attorney Theo Lawson said even municipalities that have not passed their own curfews can enforce the county order.
The cities of Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook and Tarrant have imposed curfews of their own.
The Birmingham curfew, including a ban on travel on public streets, will be enforced by the Birmingham Police Department. There are exceptions for essential workers carrying documentation from their employers. It also includes a new exception for Birmingham’s homeless residents.
The curfew order does not include an expiration date “due to civil unrest,” Woodfin said. “This curfew will continue as long as we see a need for it.”
The widespread coverage of curfews locally came in the wake of protests nationwide over the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Confederate monument in Linn Park had stood in the park between Birmingham City Hall and the Jefferson County Courthouse for 115 years. Woodfin told the crowd that he would have the monument removed by Tuesday, and work crews using heavy equipment moved into the park early Monday evening.
Woodfin said Tuesday that the monument’s 52-foot obelisk had been moved to an undisclosed location “for security reasons (and) to make sure there is no more damage caused to the monument.”
The mayor would not identify the partner companies working on the removal of the monument, but he said the process had cost the city $1.
Attorney General Sues Birmingham
Also Tuesday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed suit against the city, alleging that removal of the monument
violated state’s Memorial Preservation Act, which was passed by the Legislature in 2017 to prohibit removal of such monuments located on public property for 40 years or more.
The city was fined $25,000 last year after officials erected a plywood wall around the monument.
Anticipating another fine of $25,000 for Monday night’s removal, two fund-raisers already have raised well over that amount.
Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson, a local comedian who had called for the Sunday night protest at the monument, said on his Twitter feed Monday night that a GoFundMe campaign to cover the likely assessment had already raised nearly $31,000.
Also, the group White Clergy for Black Lives Matter had raised more than $60,000 for the levy before shutting down the fund Tuesday, according to the GoFundMe site, with any leftover money to be donated to an effort to fight mass incarceration and promote voting rights.
Woodfin said money to cover any fine would have to be allocated by the City Council.
The removal of the monument, he added, “is a very powerful symbol of our city’s desire to move beyond the pain of the past and uniting into the future.”
Meanwhile, there have been mostly peaceful protests of George Floyd’s death in cities throughout the state, including Hoover, Homewood, Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville, Phenix City, Gadsden and Auburn, where a crowd gathered at Toomer’s Corner.
Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement saying she was “shocked and angered by the tragic actions that led to the senseless death” of Floyd. She said that while most of the protests in Alabama have been peaceful, some had turned ugly.
The governor said she had authorized Adjutant General Sheryl Gordon to activate up to 1,000 Alabama National Guard members if they are needed to maintain peace.