NAACP slams Alabama governor's campaign ad about law protecting Confederate monuments

The Alabama chapter of the NAACP is clashing with Gov. Kay Ivey over a campaign ad in which she celebrates the Memorial Preservation Act.

Posted: Apr 21, 2018 9:37 PM

(CNN) -- The Alabama chapter of the NAACP is clashing with Gov. Kay Ivey over a campaign ad in which she celebrates the Memorial Preservation Act, a law she signed last May that critics say protects the state's Confederate monuments.

The group has denounced the campaign ad, saying Ivey shouldn't be proud of the act, or use it to get votes.

"We're upset about her using this campaign ad to attract voters to tell people why they should vote for her," said Benard Simelton, the president of the Alabama NAACP. The group spoke out against Ivey and the state legislature when the act was passed, he said, "but we weren't surprised, if you know what I'm saying."

The law's detractors have said it's a thinly veiled effort to protect Alabama's Confederate monuments at a time when other states and cities, like New Orleans, have moved to take theirs down.

'Politically correct nonsense'

Ivey's campaign released the ad on Tuesday.

"Up in Washington, they always know better," Ivey says at the opening of the ad, as images of different monuments across the state fade in and out. "Politically correct nonsense, I say."

Ivey says she's proud of signing the law, saying she stood up to "special interests" who wanted to take down monuments.

"We can't change or erase our history," Ivey says, "but here in Alabama, we know something Washington doesn't."

"To get where we're going means understanding where we've been."

Ivey -- who's only been in office for about a year, taking over after Gov. Robert Bentley's ouster -- signed the Memorial Preservation Act 11 months ago. The law stops local governments from removing, renaming or altering monuments, memorial streets and significant buildings that have been on public property for more than 40 years.

The bill also created the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection, which is responsible for giving the green light to proposed modifications to monuments or memorials.

Ivey's office said at the time that the law's goal was preserving history "for all generations to learn not only from our heroes and our greatest achievements, but to also ensure that we learn from our mistakes and our darkest hours."

According to a 2016 tally by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 48 Confederate monuments on public property throughout Alabama.

Ad includes memorial to battle for civil rights

At the time the bill was passed, state Sen. Hank Sanders, a Democrat from Selma, said it was "clearly" meant to protect Confederate memorials and monuments and honor the memory of white supremacists.

But the law's supporters have said it's inclusive to all monuments, not just Confederate ones. Ivey's campaign appears to try to illustrate this in the ad -- of the three monuments shown, one is a memorial and mural that sits near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, commemorating the chapter of the civil rights struggle that unfolded there.

"She used that to try and say that (the act) is all-inclusive -- that she's preserving all monuments regardless of if it's African-American or the Confederacy," the NAACP's Simelton told CNN. "I think it's a travesty that she would use something like that and use that memorial and put it in the same ad with the Confederate monuments. That's two totally different things."

Alabama 'not moving forward,' critic says

Simelton told CNN the ad shows Ivey's "lack of concern for all Alabamians." The African-American community in Alabama wants to see those monuments taken down and put in a museum, instead of adorning public property.

"They don't represent this state," he said. "They don't represent this country or what we should stand for or what we should be standing for."

Reached for comment Friday, an Ivey campaign spokesperson told CNN, "Our ad highlights a law that was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor to protect all of our historical monuments. We can't -- and we shouldn't -- change, erase or tear down history. We should learn from all of it."

But Simelton says he doesn't believe leaving the Confederate monuments in place helps the state. Instead, it shows that Alabama is stuck in the past.

"It reflects that Alabama still is not moving forward to being an inclusive state," he said. "We are still trying to be a divisive state."

Simelton noted that the Alabama conference of the NAACP sent a letter to Ivey last August, asking her to denounce white supremacist groups in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and meet with the group to discuss forming a commission to examine race relations in the state. But her staff said she wasn't interested in meeting on that issue, Simelton said.

"The impression that I got was that she didn't think it was an issue in the state of Alabama," Simelton said.

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