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Montgomery faces $25K fine after dropping Confederate street name, violating state law

The City of Montgomery is facing legal recourse after it renamed a street which memorialized former Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Formerly known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy,” the city last month opted to rename Jeff Davis Avenue to Fred D. Gray Avenue in honor of the famed civil rights attorney, whose work included providing legal representation to Alabama civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The street’s name change places the city in violation of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a law aimed at protecting historical monuments and memorials. The Alabama Historical Commission states that the law “prohibits the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any monument located on public property which has been in place for 40 years or more.”

According to the Associated Press (AP), the office of Attorney General Steve Marshall in a Nov. 5 letter notified Montgomery officials that the city must pay a $25,000 fine or it will face a lawsuit on behalf of the state.

In an interview with AP, Mayor Steven Reed suggested that symbols such as the street previously named after Davis indicated that the city was fixated on the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.

“It was important that we show, not only our residents here, but people from afar that this is a new Montgomery,” said Reed.

“We want to honor those heroes that have fought to make this union as perfect as it can be,” he added. “When I see a lot of the Confederate symbols that we have in the city, it sends a message that we are focused on the lost cause as opposed to those things that bring us together under the Stars and Stripes.”

While city officials’ move to rename the street could leave taxpayers on the hook for the penalty, Reed told AP that donors from across the country have offered to cover the fine. Additionally, he hinted at the possibility of taking the matter to the judicial system.

“The other question we have to answer is: Should we pay the fine when we see it as an unjust law? We’re certainly considering taking the matter to court because it takes away home rule for municipalities,” advised Reed.

The attorney general’s office declined Yellowhammer News’ request for comment.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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