Memphis city council casts vote, removes Confederate statues all in one night (video)

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Two Confederate statues were removed from a city park in Memphis, Tenn. Wednesday night, in an effort to erase their “offensive” history.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland proclaimed that “History is being made in Memphis tonight,” and said, “The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum.”

The statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former Confederate general, slave trader and Memphis resident, had been placed in a city park 113 years ago, but it was covered with a blue tarp and hauled away on a truck about 10 p.m. Wednesday night.

Another smaller statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, erected in 1964, was also deemed offensive and removed about 10:40 p.m.

The city, along with activists against the statues, were determined to be rid of the two statues before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while visiting Memphis.

Since the statues were in public parks, the city figured out another way to get around the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act and eliminate the statues – they worked out a deal to sell the parks to a non-profit “private entity.”

The Tennessee Historical Commission has voted in October to deny the city’s application for a waiver of the law.

The mayor said the City Council had been “laying the groundwork” for the past few months to sell two parks, Health Science Park and its easement in Fourth Bluff Park, to a non-profit. They passed legislation in September to allow the deal to take place – but the non-profit corporation, Memphis Greenspace, Inc., actually filed its incorporation papers with the state on Oct. 5.

Wednesday, the city voted to sell the two parks to Greenspace – for a whopping $1,000 each. As part of the deal, Memphis Greenspace will maintain the parks, but WREG News Channel 3 reported that it is unknown where the statues will go.

Immediately after the Memphis City Council voted to approve the sale of the parks, the minutes were approved, police surrounded the Health Sciences Park and cranes rolled into place.

During the removal process, those in favor of the deed cheered in approval as the horse and rider was lifted into the air. Someone yelled, “No drop it!” and others chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho! That racist statue has got to go!”

In less than two hours, the offensive statues were gone.

However, there is still the matter of two graves, as Gen. Forrest and his wife were buried underneath the statue. The city is reportedly planning to move the graves back to their original burial location in Elmwood Cemetery.

Wednesday night, Mayor Strickland released a lengthy statement on Facebook, to follow up with a press conference he had given. In the statement, he said, “It’s important to know why we’re here: The Forrest statue was placed in 1904, as Jim Crow segregation laws were enacted. The Davis statue was placed in 1964, as the Civil Rights Movement changed our country. The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum. As I told the Tennessee Historical Commission in October, our community wants to reserve places of reverence for those we honor.”

Bruce McMullen, the legal officer for the city, said, “We’ve always felt that we had a right to sell city property. We have in the past, and we probably will in the future. What we did was perfectly legal and right.”

Many Twitter and Facebook users responded in outrage and disbelief over the whole operation.

 

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