BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — UPDATE 3 PM AUG. 16, 2017: Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Wednesday his office has filed a lawsuit in the Jefferson County Circuit Court against Mayor WIlliam Bell and the City of Birmingham for violating state law by constructing barriers to cover the monument in Linn Park.
“In accordance with the law, my office has determined that by affixing tarps and placing plywood around the Linn Park Memorial such that it is hidden from view, the Defendants have ‘altered’ or ‘otherwise disturbed’ the memorial in violation of the letter and spirit of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act,” said Attorney General Marshall. “The City of Birmingham does not have the right to violate the law and leaves my office with no choice but to file suit.”
Bell responded to the news Wednesday afternoon with a statement sent to news media via his spokesperson April Odom:
We look forward to the court system clarifying the rights and power of a municipality to control its parks absent state intervention.– Mayor William Bell
City workers arrived at Linn Park just before 10 p.m. Tuesday night with large wooden walls and nail guns to cover the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on orders from Birmingham Mayor Williams Bell.
The monument stands at the entrance of the park at the end of 20th Street North, and it was given to the city by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1905, according to Bhamwiki.
Mayor Bell’s order came in the wake of violence perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, which left one person dead and many others injured. The violence began with protests over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Mayoral candidate Frank Matthews had objections to the covering of the confederate monument in Birmingham. Matthews shadowed city workers late last night, protesting against the covering. He argued that the monument should not be covered now because it was not covered after the murder of nine black churchgoers by a self-avowed white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina back in 2015.
“No, this is not rabble rousing. I’m speaking to what is wrong,” Matthews said. “You didn’t take it down when nine people was killed. Nine black people in a church.”
Despite Matthews’ protest, the work continued on covering the monument. According to April Odom with the city’s office, the Mayor is exploring legal options for removing the monument.