AG prepared to enforce Alabama Memorial Preservation Act as City of Birmingham considers removing Confederate monument in Linn Park
Attorney General Steve Marshall is prepared to again take the City of Birmingham to court pursuant to the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.
After the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park on Sunday night was vandalized in a failed attempt to take the obelisk-like monument down, Mayor Randall Woodfin arrived on the scene and promised the crowd that the City would remove the monument by Tuesday at noon.
The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, enacted in 2017, is designed to preserve monuments in Alabama that are over 40 years old. The Supreme Court of Alabama has upheld the law and ruled that the City of Birmingham violated said law by obstructing the base of the monument in Linn Park with a large plywood screen.
As a result, the City was fined $25,000. However, as emphasized by Woodfin recently, the law as currently written only hands down a onetime fine per violation. The City of Birmingham maintains that the law does not actually require them to take the plywood screen down.
The crowd on Sunday night destroyed that plywood screen and continued to deface and damage the monument itself.
Now, if the City does indeed remove the monument, it would appear another $25,000 onetime fine would be likely.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Woodfin indicated he is prepared to accept that consequence.
The attorney general soon thereafter made it clear enforcement of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act by his office would occur if the monument is removed by the City.
“The Alabama Monuments Preservation Act provides a singular avenue for enforcement — the filing of a civil complaint in pursuit of a fine, which the Alabama Supreme Court has determined to be a one-time assessment of $25,000. The Act authorizes no additional relief,” Marshall said in a Monday statement. “Should the City of Birmingham proceed with the removal of the monument in question, based upon multiple conversations I have had today, city leaders understand I will perform the duties assigned to me by the Act to pursue a new civil complaint against the City.
“In the aftermath of last night’s violent outbreak, I have offered the City of Birmingham the support and resources of my office to restore peace to the City,” he concluded.
An effort to enhance the penalty provisions of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act was thwarted this year when the 2020 regular session of the legislature was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The proposed legislation would have changed the penalty for those who are found to violate the law to a system in which localities would be forced to pay $5,000 per day that each violation is not corrected.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn