Judge voids Alabama law protecting Confederate monuments

A judge has overturned an Alabama law that prevents the removal of Confederate monuments from public property.

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 9:25 AM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 1:53 PM

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A judge has overturned an Alabama law that prevents the removal of Confederate monuments from public property.

A ruling issued late Monday by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo says a 2017 state law barring the removal or alteration of historical monuments violates the free speech rights of local communities.

Graffeo says the law can't be enforced, but the state could still appeal. The attorney general's comment had no immediate response to an email seeking comment.

The state sued the city of Birmingham two years ago after officials tried to remove a 52-foot-tall (15.85-meter)-tall obelisk that was erected to honor Confederate veterans in a downtown park in 1905.

Birmingham's population is mostly black, and the judge says it's indisputable that most citizens there are "repulsed" by the memorial.

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Alabama Senator Gerald Allen released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to Judge Michael Graffeo’s Ruling:

“Under the Constitution, judges are to be neutral umpires who apply the rule of law fairly. A judge’s personal beliefs, whether about politics, sociology, or history, have no bearing on how he is to apply the law. Judge Graffeo has taken it upon himself to know and declare that it is “undisputed” that the majority of residents of Birmingham are “repulsed” by the Linn Park monument, and has thus ruled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act void. But judges are not kings, and judicial activism is no substitute for the democratic process.

“The Memorial Preservation Act is meant to thoughtfully preserve the entire story of Alabama’s history for future generations. The law was vigorously debated for months by the people of Alabama’s duly-elected representatives in the State Legislature, and passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.

“The Attorney General’s Office is confident that the Memorial Preservation Act is constitutional, and I look forward to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Graffeo’s ruling.”

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