Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery Wikimedia Commons
Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery Wikimedia Commons

National

There’s a push to remove Confederate statues. In some states, that’s hard or illegal

By Josh Magness

jmagness@mcclatchy.com

August 17, 2017 07:58 AM

UPDATED August 17, 2017 10:01 AM

Clashes between white supremacists and anti-racist protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, have reignited the debate over whether Confederate monuments and memorials should remain standing or be taken down.

There are over 700 Confederate monuments and statues in the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as over 100 schools named in honor of a Confederate icon.

Officials in Baltimore considered removing four Confederate statues — including one of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — for 18 months. But after the turmoil in Charlottesville, the city quietly removed the monuments in the middle of the night, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, also announced in a statement Saturday that he plans to remove a pair of Confederate statues in the city.

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He said plans to remove the statues have long been in place, but the violence in Virginia “accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week.”

Monuments in other states including Florida and California were also taken down shortly after the unrest in Charlottesville, according to CNN.

Despite the seeming momentum to remove the statues, a handful of Southern states have laws that make taking down the controversial Confederate monuments incredibly challenging — if not impossible.

Take South Carolina, for example.

Confederate monuments in the state are protected by the Heritage Act, passed in response to the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse dome in 2000, according to USA Today.

That law bars the removal or alteration of a historical monument without a two-thirds vote from both chambers of the state’s General Assembly, according to USA Today.

RAW VIDEO: Confederate statue toppled by protesters in Durham

Protesters celebrate after pulling down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C. Monday afternoon Aug. 14, 2017.

Casey Toth and Virginia Bridges heraldsun.com

And in North Carolina — where a group of protesters tore down a Confederate statue in Durham — a law signed by former Gov. Pat McCrory makes it illegal to remove, relocate or alter a monument, memorial or plaque located on public property without permission from the state’s Historical Commission, according to The News & Observer.

Breaking: protesters have pulled down confederate statue in Durham. @WNCN pic.twitter.com/bfwogsDlY0

— Amy Cutler (@AmyCutlerNews) August 14, 2017

In Alabama, local governments are banned from altering, moving or renaming monuments, memorial streets or memorial buildings that have been located on public property for over 40 years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schools, buildings and streets are covered under this law if “erected for, or named or dedicated in honor of, an event, a person, a group, a moment, or military service.”

Other states with similar laws include Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia, which prohibits the relocation or removal of military monuments with various caveats or legal hurdles, according to 13WMAZ.

And in Memphis, Tennessee, a group of activists demanded the removal of two Confederate statues in a letter to Mayor Jim Strickland on Wednesday.

The city council voted to remove one of the statues, according to the Associated Press, but the state’s historical commission stopped the council, citing a law that prohibits removing war memorials on public property.

The city is currently filing petitions to legally remove the monuments — but the activists said the statues should be removed “by any means necessary.”

Should Confederate monuments stay or go?

Confederate monuments on state property are something NC residents feel passionately about -- on both sides of the issue. They voice their opinions on the Capitol grounds in Raleigh, where several monuments stand

Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com