MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Confederate monuments first erected after the Civil War to honor Southern soldiers have increasingly been targeted by civil rights activists who say they are offensive to Blacks and should be taken down. An Alabama legislator wants to make sure that doesn’t happen without state lawmakers’ approval.
Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa has proposed a bill that would prohibit the removal of historic monuments, plaques and statues from public property unless a committee of lawmakers grants a waiver.
“I think there is an undercurrent, not just in Alabama, but throughout the nation” of people who “want to kind of rewrite history or whitewash it,” Allen said during a public hearing on the bill Tuesday.
Allen’s bill does not specify Confederate monuments, only historic objects of “remembrance,” but it comes after a handful of Southern cities — including Birmingham, Alabama — are seeking to shed symbols of the Old Confederacy.
The city of Birmingham, where African-Americans represent the majority of residents, has the possibility of removing a Confederate memorial from a downtown park.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley removed four Confederate flags last year from the grounds of the Alabama Capitol, but Bentley said he had no plans to remove an 88-foot-tall Confederate monument that stands outside his office.
The New Orleans City Council last year voted to take down four Confederate monuments.
Mike Williams of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said the monuments memorialize people who “answered the call of duty for their state.”
“Don’t disgrace my grandfathers or your grandfathers or these people’s grandfathers by allowing political correctness to come into this state and start destroying the history of this country,” Williams said.
The Rev. Rayford Mack of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP said the decision about what to do with the monuments should rest with the local governments where they are located, not a state panel of lawmakers.
“Nobody wants to erase history, but there are always two sides to that story,” Mack said. “If this monument is in the middle of a predominantly Black area, or a predominantly minority area, how do you think that makes the community feel? How can I take pride in something that wanted to continue my enslavement?”
A House of Representatives committee is scheduled to take up its version of the bill Wednesday.