MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - If Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland doesn't have the authority to order Confederate statues to be taken down, then who does?
Several of the Tennessee Historical Commission members are from Memphis, and there are local politicians who voted for the state law keeping them from coming down.
State law forbids the removal of Confederate statues without a waiver being granted.
"Following the law and doing what's right is the best way," said Representative John Deberry Jr. on the Tennessee General Assembly.
It's a law very few local lawmakers voted for. Of these 12 Memphis-area legislators, only three voted in favor of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016, and Deberry was one of them. That group included:
- State Senator Lee Harris
- State Senator Sara Kyle
- State Senator Reginald Tate (voted yes)
- State Rep. Larry Miller
- State Rep. John Deberry (voted yes)
- State Rep. Raumesh Akbari
- State Rep. G.A. Hardaway
- State Rep. Karen Camper
- State Rep. Joe Towns
- State Rep. Johnnie Turner
- State Rep. Mark White (voted yes)
- State Rep. Antonio Parkinson
"I voted for there to be an orderly fashion for the removal and for there to be conversation and dialogue," Deberry said.
Deberry said he wants the statues down, but he wants it done in a lawful fashion.
One way for that to happen is for the historical commission to approve a waiver for the statue's removal.
The commission has already denied one waiver, even though seven of its members are from west Tennessee.
That group includes a college professor, the former National Civil Rights Museum President, the General Manager of a local TV station, and a pastor:
- Beverly C. Robertson
- Joanne Cullom Moore
- Yolanda Harris
- Dr. Douglass Cupples
- Ronald Walter
- Derita Coleman Williams
- Keith Norman
"This has boiled down to an issue of racial values and not about historic values," Norman said.
Norman said he is hopeful that the Commission will give the city's waivers a fair shake, but has raised questions about the objectivity of certain commission members.
"I don't know that the commission is rightly seated to hear in an objective manner either of those requests," Norman said.
We have reached out to the Tennessee Historical Commission for the notes from the last several meetings.
In a meeting from February, it was documented that Memphis' waiver to take down the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue was denied because they said the statue was "a contributing feature of Forrest Park."