The city of Birmingham, Alabama, has been slapped with a $25,000 fine after the state’s supreme court ruled its attempt to cover a Confederate monument violated a state law.
A circuit judge had struck down the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act as a violation of free speech of local communities.
The conflict over Birmingham’s treatment of the memorial began in 2017, when city officials set up wooden panels around the 52-foot-tall obelisk that hid from view the names of Confederate soldiers.
Later that year, the state sued the city.
In January 2019, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo ruled in favor of the city.
The state appealed, and the state’s supreme court reversed the ruling.
The court unanimously ruled that Birmingham’s creation of a wooden structure around the monument constituted an attempt to “alter” or “disturb” it.
The Memorial Preservation Act states: “No … monument which is located on public property and has been so situated for 40 or more years may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, or otherwise disturbed.”
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Associate Justice Tommy Bryan wrote in his decision that “inherent in the definition of a ‘monument’ — indeed inherent in the very purpose of a monument — is that a monument must memorialize something.”
“However, the monument in its current form — covered by a 12-foot plywood screen around the base — memorializes nothing.”
“Accordingly, although the plywood screen does not physically touch the monument, we must agree with the State that the plywood screen changes the appearance of the monument and so modifies and interferes with the monument that it must be construed as ‘alter[ing]’ or ‘disturb[ing]’ the monument within the plain meaning of those terms as used in [the Memorial Preservation Act.]”
The high court also ruled the act did not violate a city’s “right” to free speech.
“To the extent the City defendants argue that the City has an independent right to free speech protected by the Alabama Constitution, we disagree,” Bryan wrote.
“As we noted above, the City is merely a ‘political subdivision of the state,’ and having been created ‘by sovereign power in accordance with sovereign will’ as expressed by the legislature, the City may exercise ‘such power, and only such power, as is conferred upon it by law.’”
Rick Journey, Birmingham’s director of communications in the office of public information, said in a statement that the ruling was “less about the rule of law and more about politics.”
“We are carefully reviewing the opinion to determine our next step, but clearly the citizens of Birmingham should have the final decision about what happens with monuments on Birmingham city grounds,” Journey said.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall also issued a statement on the court’s decision.
“The Alabama Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion today in reversing the Jefferson County Circuit Court decision striking down Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act,” Marshall said.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for the Alabama law which seeks to protect historical monuments.”
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via The Western Journal
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