Memphis leaders deal with fallout of removing Confederate statues

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis and Tennessee leaders continue to deal with fallout from the decision to remove the city's Confederate monuments.

After the sun set in the Bluff City on Thursday, City Council voted to immediately remove the statues that had stood in the city for more than 100 years.

Mayor Jim Strickland stands behind his decision to sell the two city parks in order to rid the city of the monuments.

"It couldn't have been any more open. Everyone knew we wanted these monuments removed by April 4," Strickland said.

He said the city explored all options for removing the monuments. Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission voted unanimously to remove the monuments.

Tennessee House Republicans launched an investigation into the removal of the statues. The group insinuated Memphis lawmakers may have broken the law in order to remove the statues.

Strickland said he welcomes the investigation.

"We welcome any dialogue, with them or answer questions, produce documents, whatever they want we welcome that," Strickland said.

University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy said he believes what the city did was legal. He said he's reviewed the sale of the parks, and he thinks everything checks out.

The parks were sold for $1,000 each to Memphis Greenspace Inc.--a company created just months ago.

Meanwhile, we're hearing for the first time from a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) on the issue--the entity initially tasked with approving the statues' removal.

Reverend Keith Norman, a member of the THC for the last four years, pushed in October for the THC to approve the city's request to take down the statues.

Despite the delays and uphill battle to get it done, he said the takedown Wednesday night came as a perfect holiday gift to the city

"The will of the people is finally being heard on this matter," Norman said. "I believe ultimately Memphis won because they outmaneuvered those whom tried to keep those statues in place."

Norman said this was never about erasing history, rather finding a more appropriate home for the Confederate statues.

The THC next meets in February--a meeting Norman predicts to be an interesting one. He plans to table the discussion of these two monuments now that the parks are private property

"There is no need to consider a waiver because the city no longer owns the park. This is a moot point," he said.

WMC Action News 5's Sasha Jones is working to learn why the parks were sold at a price much lower than their value, and how the city will cope with that monetary loss. She'll have her full report, tonight at 10.

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