During debate on Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, Dem legislator brings rope to podium
MONTGOMERY — State Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) on Tuesday forcefully spoke against an effort in the Alabama Senate to strengthen the penalty provision of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017.
The legislation being debated is sponsored by State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), who wants to change the penalty for those who are found to violate the law from a one-time $25,000 fine to a system in which localities would be forced to pay $5,000 per day that each violation is not corrected.
Smitherman, who is African-American, brought a rope to the podium when speaking against the legislation on the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon. He said the rope symbolized the history of terrible treatment black people have received in Alabama. He sought to directly tie Allen’s attempt to preserve monuments to the whipping of slaves and lynching of falsely accused black men.
The law, enacted in 2017, is designed to preserve monuments in Alabama that are over 40 -years-old.
Many have framed the law as an attempt to prevent cities from removing monuments to Confederate soldiers and other parts of Alabama’s history related to the Civil War.
“I have this up here, it reminds me of all of that,” Smitherman said, referring to his rope and Alabama’s legacy of slavery.
Once it was apparent that Smitherman and Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) would filibuster the bill, Allen carried over his bill to the call of the chair.
The effort could back to the Senate floor as soon as Thursday.
This came after a Senate committee approved the substitute version of the bill, SB 127, on an 11-1 vote. The original version would have mandated a $10,000 per day fine rather than $5,000 per day.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has spoken out against SB 127. The bill was introduced in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court upholding the law and ruling that the City of Birmingham violated said law by obstructing the base of a monument to a Confederate soldier 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.
Allen has maintained his bill will preserve all aspects of the state’s history, both good and bad, so it will not be forgotten.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.