As the conversation continues around relocating the Confederate monument in front of the Madison County Courthouse, the Huntsville City Council confirmed Thursday night that one of its most recent efforts was rejected by the Madison County Commission.
During Thursday’s city council meeting, Council President Devyn Keith read a response letter dated August 31, 2020, into the record.
The letter was in response to Keith’s proposition in an August 21 letter to have the county commission gift the land on which the monument stands to the city and allow them to relocate it to Maple Hill Cemetery where several Confederate soldiers are laid to rest.
The letter, signed by Commission Chairman Dale Strong, argued that there are legal hurdles that prevent them from doing that.
“In closing, I appreciate your continued efforts in conjunction with the Madison County Commission to relocate the Confederate monument that has been located on the grounds of the Madison County Courthouse for the past 115 years and respectively decline your request to transfer ownership to the City of Huntsville that would create potential concerns of other legalities,” Strong stated.
Some who spoke about the monument argued that there are avenues to take down the statue and reaffirmed that the money has already been raised to pay the fine for taking that step.
“Taking it down is necessary to heal our state's long and continuous history of violence towards black people. So many Huntsville citizens are asking, meeting after meeting, for this healing and compassion,” said Karina Escobar.
Several people spoke out about both the desire to relocated the monument and for additional police reform measures. During Thursday’s meeting, no one spoke in favor of keeping the monument in its current location.
Councilman Bill Kling suggested on Thursday that perhaps they just needed to wait a little longer before a loophole would allow the city and county to legally move the monument.
A July 9 meeting of the Alabama Committee for Monument Preservation was never held because the group stated the move was “outside the scope of the Committee's authority.”
Kling argued not having a meeting opened up an opportunity.
“If there's no meeting or no denial within a certain period of time, then that may mean that an argument could be made that the waiver has been granted. All I know is at the end of the month, that could be a very interesting time,” Kling said.
According to the Alabama Monument Preservation Act of 2017, “If the committee fails to act on a completed application for a waiver within 90 days after the application is submitted to the committee, the waiver shall be deemed granted.”
Councilman Will Culver also pointed to a resolution passed unanimously by the Alabama League of Municipalities that would allow for local control over relocating Confederate monuments.
"We sub-sequentially, we being the city council, passed a resolution also asking the governor of this great State of Alabama to expedite or to hold a special legislative session for the purpose of addressing this resolution," Culver said.
During Thursday’s meeting, Angela Curry, a representative of the Citizens Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform, also questioned when the city plans to meet with groups like hers to discuss many of their requests, they called for back in June.
“We are asking again to meet with leaders who have the ability to make decisions from a standpoint of saving lives, saving money to the city and also producing a good quality of live not just for citizens, but also for officers,” Curry said.
In response, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he would be willing to meet after the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council (HPCAC) concluded its report into the protests in the first week of June.
“We are more than glad to sit down with you, but I’m not going to do anything that upsets this Citizens Advisory Council and does anything that would show that the administration is trying to step in and do anything in what they’re studying because they’re going to be stating some of the same things that came out of the 27 items and suggestions. So, after we get finished with them, we would be more than glad to meet and have a conversation,” Battle said.
During her comments, Councilwoman Frances Akridge said not meeting with groups like the Citizens Coalition is an unnecessary delay tactic.
“I want to start by reminding this council and sir, Mayor Battle, that the resolution that was passed for the Citizens Advisory Council was very specific. It revolved around the evaluation of the events of one week. It did not include anything that the Citizens Coalition for Criminal Justice reform also wants to talk about,” Akridge said.
“And not talking about any of those topics until this evaluation of one week is done seems like a very clear stiff-arm tactic.”
The HPCAC is currently accepting materials from the public related to the protests at the beginning of June that came in response to the killing of George Floyd. The council is scheduled to hold a public interest group listening session on Thursday, September 17.
Last month, Huntsville Police released a report giving its responses to some of suggestions called for by the Citizens Coalition and other groups.
There isn’t a set date on when the HPCAC is mandated to return its report.