MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would give cities and counties a possible avenue to take down unwanted Confederate monuments and relocate them elsewhere for preservation.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 6 to 4 to reject the legislation that would make revisions to the 2017 Memorial Preservation Act. In recent years, cities and protesters have sought to take down many such monuments amid a national reckoning about Confederate symbols more than a century and a half after the Civil War ended slavery.
The legislation by Democratic Rep. Juandalynn Givan of Birmingham had called for allowing cities and counties to request permission from a state committee to move the monuments to another location, such as a local park or state agency land, for preservation. The local governments would have to pay for the relocation.
Givan reporters she was not surprised by the vote, and plans to reintroduce the legislation in the future. She said she believed opposition to the bill was rooted in racism.
“We are in the state of Alabama and there is still much to be done with regards to the issues of the Confederacy and the beliefs of those individuals who believe in the Confederate monuments, in the Confederate flag.”
Givan also said after the bill’s rejection: “Dr. Maya Angelou once said, ’When people show you who they are, believe them.’ They have shown who they are.”
The 2017 law, which was approved as some cities began taking down Confederate monuments, forbids the removal or alteration of monuments more than 40 years old. Violations carry a $25,000 fine.
Some cities have just opted to take down Confederate monuments and pay the $25,000 fine.
Rep. Mike Holmes of Wetumpka filed a bill in the current session that would increase the fine from a flat $25,000 to $10,000 a day. Holmes voted against Givan’s bill, saying it would weaken protections for the monuments.
“It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with history,” Holmes said. He added that a large part of the state has ancestors who lost their lives in the Civil War.
Asked by a Montgomery Advertiser reporter about the feelings of slave descendants, Holmes disputed that the Civil War was about slavery and white supremacy.
“Do you have any proof of that?… There is no proof of that.” Holmes replied.
Givan said her proposal was a reasonable compromise that would let the monuments be preserved rather than being destroyed or vandalized.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has said that over 160 Confederate symbols were removed in 2020, including 12 in Alabama. While the state ranked third for removals, hundreds of memorials to the Confederacy continue to dot the Deep South landscape.
The SPLC noted that many of these memorials were located in the South, particularly Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, where “preservation laws prohibit communities from making their own decisions about what they want to see in their public spaces.”
The Tuesday statement from SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brookes added: “These dehumanizing symbols of pain and oppression continue to serve as backdrops to important government buildings, halls of justice, public parks, and U.S. military properties.”
The Associated Press