The battle began in 2017 when Birmingham, a Black-majority city, ordered plywood screens be erected around the base of a 52-foot obelisk honouring Confederate veterans. The inscriptions honoured soldiers who fought to protect slavery. Birmingham and several cities across the country took action against Confederate monuments during a nationwide clampdown on racist symbols encouraging racial violence.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for Alabama law which protects historical monuments. Birmingham City acted unlawfully by erecting barriers to stop the public from viewing the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park, which is 114-year-old. The decision reversed a lower court ruling that found a 2017 Alabama law which protects historical monuments and statues from being renamed, removed, relocated, or changed was ambiguous and violated Birmingham’s free speech rights.
Too much Politics!
The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the city had no right to cover up a Confederate tribute as per an unanimous ruling protecting Confederate structures, ending a year-long battle over Birmingham city’s right to cover up problematic Civil War tributes. Inscriptions on an obelisk in Birmingham, Alabama, honouring Confederate soldiers were covered in plywood in 2017. The battle began 2 years ago at Birmingham, a city which has a Black-majority, ordered plywood covers/screens around a 52-foot obelisk which is an ode to Confederate veterans.
The screens blocked inscriptions honouring soldiers who fought to protect slavery. Birmingham was one of many US cities to take action against monuments that have Confederate history attached to it, during a nationwide reckoning on racist symbols and racial violence. The state’s 9 Supreme Court justices declared that the city does not have constitutional rights to free speech and had violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act 2017. The city is now required to pay a $25,000 fine.
Victory for Alabama Laws
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for the Alabama law that aims to protect historical monuments. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Birmingham City went against the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act by putting up the plywood barricade round a Confederate monument in mid 2017. This order to put up the barrier was given by Mayor William Bell and was meant to obscure inscriptions honouring Confederate veterans. Following Bell’s 2017 decision, the State filed an action against Birmingham City, alleging that this plywood barrier was violating a part of the Preservation Act that says that no structure located on any public property, especially if erected 40+ years may be altered, renamed, relocated, removed, or even disturbed.
Judge Michael Graffeo ruled in early 2019 that protecting the monument deprived Birmingham of its constitutionally given free speech, and the right to due process. This decision was then reversed by the state’s supreme court which is all-Republican, and they also fined the City to the tune of $25,000 for directly violating the Preservation Act. In a city that is almost 70% black, however, many folks remain highly disappointed by the ruling, as it appeared to be less about the rule of law and more about politics. The sharp divide in American politics has had a polarizing effect.