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House committee rejects bill allowing localities to remove historic monuments

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House Judiciary Committee voted down Rep. Juandalynn Givan’s (D-Birmingham) HB 8, a bill that would amend the Memorial Preservation Act of 2017.

The Act prohibits the removal and alteration of monuments and buildings more than 40 years old that are on public property.

The committee considered a substituted version of the bill introduced by Givan that she viewed as a “reasonable compromise” that would allow localities the flexibility to remove unwanted monuments while preserving the monuments following relocation. Her substitute would have allowed municipalities to remove monuments erected less than 50 years ago; monuments older than 50 years would require a designated statewide committee’s approval in order to be removed by a municipality.

An official from the Department of Archives and History voiced support for the substitute version of the bill. An original version of the bill would have repealed the Memorial Preservation Act, however Givan said she attempted through the substitute to balance the interests of local control and preserving history.

In a 4-6 roll call vote, the committee rejected a motion to give the substituted version of the bill a favorable report; HB 8 is likely dead for the session.

Those supporting HB 8 were: Reps. Jim Hill (R-Moody), Prince Chesnut (D-Selma), Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa). Those opposing were: Reps. Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley), Wes Allen (R-Troy), Dickie Drake (R-Leeds), Allen Farley (R-McCalla), Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) and Ben Robbins (R-Sylacauga).

Speaking to members of the media outside the committee room immediately following the vote, Givan — without evidence — accused all committee members who did not support her bill of being racist.

She asserted the vote “showed you what type of people they actually are in this day and time in the United States of America.”

“I was surprised at some of the actions that they took,” Givan remarked. “But of course, here again, we are in the state of Alabama. And there is still much to be done with regards to the issues of the Confederacy and the beliefs of those individuals who believe in the Confederate monuments, the Confederate flag here in the state of Alabama. And those are their beliefs. And especially right now in the era that we’re in, especially coming off the heels of the Trump administration, I’m not surprised by the vote today.”

The Democrat subsequently lashed out at four specific committee members.

“My initial reaction (to the vote) is that I sit on the Alabama House of Representatives, with individuals such as Representative Holmes — whom I feel is one of the most racist people in the United States of America. That’s my reaction,” she said. “And Representative Allen.”

After briefly pausing, she added, “(Allen) Farley and (Dickie) Drake, that’s my honest opinion.”

When pressed why she felt these four Republican legislators were racist, Givan made vague claims that she heard secondhand that Holmes had made “disparaging” statements about her. She was unable to provide specifics of what those alleged statements were. Regarding Allen, Givan seemed to imply that he was racist because he is the son of Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), who sponsored the Memorial Preservation Act. She did not attempt to specifically justify the comments about Farley or Drake.

Asked if she thinks everyone who voted against her bill is racist, Givan responded, “Pretty much so. Yes. Why not vote for the bill if they weren’t? … I do feel that they are racist.”

“Many (all) of the those individuals who voted against this bill are members of the Republican Party. They are Trumplicans,” Givan commented. “And they have their beliefs because they are in power that they actually exude white supremacy here in the state of Alabama. And especially in the House of Representatives. So, it doesn’t surprise me that they voted against the bill.”

Speaking to members of the media after the committee meeting, Holmes rejected Givan’s charge that he is “racist.”

Holmes advised that Givan was unable to provide anything to substantiate her claim because it is not true; he added that his opposition to the bill has nothing to do with race. Holmes, under subsequent questioning, stated that he does not believe the Confederacy fought to preserve slavery. He said that the Civil War was unrelated to slavery.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn