MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis City Council unanimously approved plans for an attorney to draw up resolutions to remove the Confederate monuments in the city.
Council Chairman Berlin Boyd put the topic on the council's agenda following protests in Memphis and across the country that took shape after a fatal white supremacist rally in Virginia.
Boyd told a story about how he was accosted in Downtown Memphis by citizens passing out offensive fliers to African-Americans.
"It's very frustrating and very negative to know that we have something that represents bigotry, something that represents hatred in our city," Boyd said. "Most of those monuments were put up in the 60s during the time of the Civil Rights movement to say, 'Hey, we once enslaved you, we can put you back into slavery.'"
Memphis City Council's debate began with attorney Allan Wade laying out four options available to city government:
- Immediate removal of the statues (which is against state law, but Wade said legal arguments could be made that the monuments are "public nuisances" that are causing a hazard to the city.)
- Sell or auction the statues
- Go through the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) to get approval to remove the statues
- Board up the statues
Wade pointed out some of the process and challenges associated with each option. He said one of the hardest options to accomplish would be going through THC to get the statues removed.
He explained that 66 percent of THC must vote in favor of the resolution. He added that one of the problems with accomplishing this is the fact that many Sons of the Confederacy members are part of the THC board.
"It is probably easier to have someone executed by lethal injection in Tennessee than it is to get a waiver from the historical commission," Wade said.
Still, the city council unanimously agreed to have Wade draw up resolutions for all four of those options. The council will discuss those resolutions at its next meeting, which is scheduled for September.
Council member Martavius Jones also spoke during the discussion. He compared Confederate generals to Japanese generals during World War II. He said both attacked the United States of America, but only one group has monuments dedicated in their honor.
Meanwhile, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam held a news conference in Memphis on Tuesday. He spoke about tourism ahead of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction announcement. The city council has already called on Haslam to speed up the monument removal process.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is looking for feedback from Memphians to head to THC. You can submit your thoughts below: