Attorney General Steve Marshall (R-AL) on Monday released a video message warning the people of Alabama that elected officials violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act could cause serious, wide-spread societal consequences.
The message came after Marshall on Friday announced that his office is filing suit against Madison County for recently removing a Confederate monument from the county courthouse grounds in Huntsville. This monument was originally erected in 1905.
Marshall said this is the fifth lawsuit in 2020 alone brought against a city or county for allegedly violating the act, which prohibits the removal, alteration or destruction of any structure of historical significance more than 40 years old in the state.
“In recent months, we have witnessed a number of elected officials take it upon themselves to tear down monuments and statues protected under Alabama law,” Marshall said to begin his statement on Monday.
He then proceeded to outline some key points about the situation.
Partial transcript as follows:
I want to speak directly to the people of Alabama, as the chief law enforcement officer of our state, to make a few things clear about the actions of these elected officials:
First, any elected official who removes a historic monument or statue in violation of Alabama law has broken the law. He has not simply decided to ‘pay a fee’ so that he can lawfully have the monument or statue removed. He has committed an illegal act.
Second, any elected official sworn into office by taking an oath to uphold the law, who then breaks a duly enacted and constitutional law, has violated that oath.
Third, despite what some newspapers might have you believe, any elected official who disregards the duties of his office in this manner has done so not out of courage, but has done so out of fear. This should not be celebrated, for disregarding the law subverts our democratic system.
For Marshall, this is not just about one law.
He advised that much more is at stake than historical structures. He also noted that elected officials have legal recourse to deal with laws they do not like. Ignoring — or willfully violating — such a law is not a valid recourse, Marshall explained.
“Our government vests the power to make laws in the legislature alone. If an elected official disagrees with a law, he can work through his legislators to see that law changed. That is how our system works,” the attorney general remarked.
Marshall continued, “I urge my fellow Alabamians to take note of those casting votes and spending their tax dollars to violate a law of this state. It is now a question of when not if these same leaders will cast aside yet another law—being guided only by the political winds of the moment.”
He concluded by pointing to the anarchy that has been witnessed in other parts of the country this year when law and order is subverted.
“Around the country, we have seen what happens when city and county officials allow the mob to take over,” Marshall stressed. “It all starts with subtle non-enforcement of laws and ordinances, and quickly devolves into utter lawlessness. As a state, we must remain vigilant that those elected to govern our localities do not lead us slowly down the same road.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn