Alabama Supreme Court: Plywood obstructing view of Confederate soldier monument in Birmingham a violation of the law
The Supreme Court of Alabama issued a decision on Wednesday that the City of Birmingham violated the law when it erected a plywood screen around the base of a monument to a Confederate soldier in Linn Park.
The plywood screen, initially erected under the orders of former Mayor William Bell in 2017, has been left in place by Mayor Randall Woodfin.
The Supreme Court decision was unanimous. It reversed a January circuit court decision in favor of the City. As a result of the decision, the City of Birmingham will be fined $25,000.
Justice Tommy Bryan, writing the majority opinion for eight of the justices, wrote, “Accordingly, we conclude that, under the circumstances of this case, the City defendants were subject to a single $25,000 fine for their violation of the Act.”
The state had sought a $25,000 fine per day the screen was in place.
Justice Mike Bolin, in a concurring opinion, wrote, “I question whether a fine in the total amount of $25,000 discourages such conduct by a public entity.”
“A single fine in this amount for an intentional violation of the statute, after over two years of litigation, seems to be a minute deterrence for the same or similar future conduct.” he continued.
In a press release, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall welcomed the decision, saying, “The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for the Alabama law which seeks to protect historical monuments. The City of Birmingham acted unlawfully when it erected barriers to obstruct the view of the 114-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park.”
Marshall also called this “a successful conclusion” to the case.
Rick Journey, a spokesman for the City of Birmingham, sent Yellowhammer News the following statement: “We are strongly disappointed with the ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court. This ruling appears to be 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.”
State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the sponsor of the Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, told Yellowhammer over the phone that he had read the decision closely, and he was happy the law had been upheld by the Supreme Court.
“The supreme court made a strong ruling protecting history,” he said.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.