State Asks Judge to Protect Confederate Monument While Lawsuit Appealed

Birmingham Mayor William Bell had the Confederate monument in Linn Park covered after protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall fired the latest salvo in the battle over historical monuments in the state, filing a motion to stay a Jefferson County judge’s ruling that the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act is unconstitutional.

Then-Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Graffeo said in his Jan. 14 ruling that the law essentially forced a pro-Confederacy message on the city of Birmingham.

The motion to stay, filed Friday morning in Jefferson County Circuit Court, seeks to preserve the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park as it is pending the state’s appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.

“We believe the Court’s decision against the Memorial Preservation Act will be overturned due to the fact that it incorrectly assigns the right of free speech to a government subdivision (the City of Birmingham),” Marshall said in a release.

“Federal constitutional law, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for over 100 years, is clear that ‘a political subdivision, created by the state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the federal constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator.’”

The state sued the city after it erected a plywood screen around the monument in August 2017, an action ordered by then-Mayor William Bell in the wake of violent white supremacist protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Marshall sued the city for covering the Confederate monument, citing the then 3-month-old Memorial Preservation Act. The state’s suit called for a fine of $25,000 per day against the city for any attempted removal and alteration of historical monuments.

That is the suit that led to Graffeo’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional. On Jan. 17, Marshall filed notice his office would appeal the ruling. Links to both filings are below.

Attorney General’s Office Motion to Stay
Attorney General’s Office Notice of Appeal