Woodfin declares curfew for Birmingham, promises to take down Confederate monument
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has declared a State of Emergency in his city following a night where a peaceful protest devolved into rioting and looting. He announced a curfew will be in place from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. until the unrest subsides.
Woodfin also committed to the promise he made to protesters Sunday night that he would take down the monument to the Confederate soldiers in Birmingham’s Linn Park. The mayor believes the cost in civil unrest outweighs the civil suit his city would be vulnerable to if violating the Alabama law protecting statues as old as the one in Linn Park.
The leaders of Birmingham’s police and fire departments joined Woodfin at a press conference Monday morning. The three men detailed that Sunday night in Birmingham 24 people were arrested, 14 businesses were looted, 13 more businesses were significantly damaged, five commercial properties were lit on fire and 17 more fires sprung up in public that demanded the fire department’s attention.
Woodfin began his remarks with a remembrance of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was shown in a video dying from the actions taken by a white Minneapolis police officer who has since been charged with murder and manslaughter.
“That’s shaken all of us to our core, it has hit us all, it has brought up every emotion you can think of,” Woodfin said of the much-publicized video of Floyd’s death.
Woodfin then turned to the events of Sunday night.
“I support activism and your right to peacefully assemble, but I don’t support mobs and people destroying things just because,” remarked Woodfin.
The mayor then announced the citywide curfew, and warned anyone planning to stay on the streets, “We’re not playing.”
Woodfin said that anyone loitering or gathering on the streets after 7:00 p.m. will have to deal with the city’s police department. He said that employers who require workers to be out at those hours should provide some type of documentation an officer could check.
“Violence, looting and chaos is not the road to reform,” Woodfin told the public.
“You’re not doing that in the name of reform or George Floyd,” Woodfin said of those turning to violence and destruction before adding, “You’re on a different agenda that the city of Birmingham will not tolerate.”
The curfew currently has no end date, and Woodfin told reporters he would be assessing the continued need for a curfew on a daily basis.
Birmingham’s leader urged the public to call the Crimestoppers number at 205-254-7777 and turn in those who are committing crimes.
Woodfin was asked by a reporter about comments he made Sunday night promising to remove by Tuesday at noon the monument to Confederate soldiers in Birmingham’s Linn Park.
“In order to prevent more civil unrest in our city, I think it is very imperative we remove this statue,” Woodfin said.
“That has a cost to it. I understand that the AG’s office can bring a civil suit against the city. If there is a judgment rendered from a judge, then we should be held accountable,” continued the mayor.
“I believe I am willing to accept that, because that is a lower cost than civil unrest in our city,” added Woodfin about the consequences of breaking the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act that makes it illegal to remove statues more than 40 years old.
Woodfin said his city does not intend to destroy the statue or harm it in any way.
“We want to bring in someone that can show us how to remove it without causing any more damage to it,” Woodfin said of the statue.
He said the City of Birmingham will see if the Daughters of the Confederacy group wants to take ownership of the statue, or if it can be placed in a museum.
Woodfin was also asked about those claiming local comedian Jermaine “Funnymaine” Johnson before the destruction began on Sunday evening.
“We need to tear something down tonight. They need to see Birmingham, the home of the civil rights movement, tear some shit down tonight,” remarked Johnson in a clip circulated on social media.
“We will be following up on any information people would like to share, about anyone that incited anything. And if in our power, we have evidence, we will bring charges,” responded Woodfin to the question about Johnson.
Johnson has denied the claims of incitement and made attempts to fundraise in support of damaged black businesses in a tweet Monday morning.
Woodfin said he would been talking frequently with Governor Kay Ivey’s chief of staff Jo Bonner, and as of now there are no plans to deploy the National Guard within Birmingham.
Governor Ivey on Monday authorized up to 1,000 National Guard troops to be readied in case events make them necessary.
Woodfin concluded his press conference on Monday with plea to all Magic City residents: “Birmingham the world is watching, we disappointed ourselves last night, let’s not make that mistake again. Do the right thing.”