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SPLC statement on judge’s ruling against Alabama law that forced cities to preserve Confederate monuments

Striking a blow to the defenders of the “Lost Cause,” a judge has struck down an Alabama law that prevented the removal of Confederate symbols from public land.  

Yesterday’s ruling is the first time a court has concluded that a state cannot force a city to maintain a Confederate monument that its citizens find abhorrent. Cities have long been at the forefront of our nation's civil rights movements, and this ruling protects and builds on that tradition.

The Circuit Court ruled that Birmingham has a constitutionally protected right to decide for itself what messages it wants to convey to its citizens and to the world. Alabama's majority-white Legislature cannot force Birmingham, a majority-black city, to maintain a monument to white supremacy. 

This is a groundbreaking ruling that should give comfort to other municipalities throughout the South and the country that want to remove Confederate monuments from public land. 

The SPLC’s Whose Heritage report catalogs the more than 1,740 symbols of the Confederacy that remain standing today. The majority of these symbols were erected in the 1910s and ‘20s following the Reconstruction era, and again after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools.

These symbols continue to serve as tools of oppression by seeking to honor those who fought to preserve white supremacy.

The judge’s order yesterday against the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act comes more than a year after the state sued the city of Birmingham for violating the act by covering the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the city’s Linn Park with plastic, and later plywood.

The city attorneys for Birmingham successfully defended the city against the state’s lawsuit. The SPLC, in conjunction with the law firm Covington & Burling, LLP, filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the case, supporting the city’s defense.

Photo by Joe Songer/Associated Press