City Council creates backup plan to ensure removal of Confederate monuments

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis City Council is making plans to ensure that the Confederate monuments in the Bluff City get removed.

A city council committee drafted an ordinance that could be put into action if Tennessee Historical Commission denies the city's waiver to remove the monuments.

City Council Attorney Allan Wade helped create the ordinance. He said the city has a legal case for removing the monuments because they are offensive and unconstitutional. He said the presence of the monuments go against a Supreme Court of the United States ruling that guarantees all citizens have equal access to public parks.

"The foundation is there may be constitutional violations, and they trump the Heritage Protection Act." Wade said. "Our community deserves a permanent solution."

Full City Council voted on the ordinance Tuesday afternoon, passing it unanimously. The ordinance must be approved with three readings, just like any other ordinance. It has until Oct. 6 to pass two more council readings.

The ordinance is a backup plan. City Council members said they still hope Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) approves the city's waiver during its next meeting, Oct. 13.

Many residents are backing the city's plan yet say more can be done now.

"These statues are oppressive, and they're oppressive to African Americans in the city," Tami Sawyer of Take Em Down 901 said. "At a minimum they could be covered today and the police presence can be removed."

Activists like Sawyer are now beginning to put pressure on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who is on the Tennessee Historical Commission.

"What is a dog and pony show is the Governor of Tennessee saying that he requests that the THC make a decision," Sawyer said.

But, the governor has been vocal regarding taking down these statues. He sent a letter urging the THC to vote at their October meeting, and he spoke about the issue Tuesday from Nashville.

"We're concerned about the statues in Memphis," Haslam said. "We're seven months out from the 50th anniversary of Dr. (Martin Luther) King's death. I think the statues in Memphis will take on a new prominence around that event."

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