In January 2019, the Jefferson Circuit Court ruled in favor of the city, arguing that state law violated a municipality’s right to free speech. This fall, however, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously overturned that ruling, ending legal challenges to the law at the state level.
‘I knew we were breaking the law’
Nonetheless, a growing number of local officials have shown themselves willing to break the law and pay the fine of $ 25,000. In Birmingham, Democratic Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the soldiers and sailors monument removed a week after George Floyd’s murder in May. He argued that the fine was less costly than continuing civil unrest.
In Lowndes County, which has a population of almost 75% African-American, county commissioners voted unanimously this year to remove a Confederate memorial that for decades stood outside the Hayneville courthouse. “I knew we were breaking the law, but I just thought it was something we had to do,” said Dickson Farrior, 72, the commissioner who first pushed for the monument to be removed. “It represented white supremacy, and we don’t need it.”
Mr Farrior, who is one of two white men on the commission and has represented his district since 1985, said the county had established a GoFundMe page to help pay the fine, but was pleasantly surprised when a couple local volunteered to cover the $ 25,000 themselves. .
“I don’t know if the Legislature had in mind that in fact you can pay to change your monuments,” said Paul Horwitz, professor at the University of Alabama School of Law.
Yet, Mr Horwitz said, a drumbeat of actions like Mr Reed and Mr Farrior could add a layer of pressure for lawmakers to reconsider the law – or at least “change it in ways that allow no more public discussions ”.
At a minimum, the state can most likely expect more challenges from Mr Reed, who recently formed a committee of historians and community leaders to examine the names of other public spaces in Montgomery.