- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama state senator Thursday said he wants to pass legislation prohibiting the removal of historic monuments, markers and school names after debate about the display of Confederate emblems on public property.

Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, filed the bill Monday during the first day of the special session. He said the legislation would protect all aspects of the state’s history.

“It’s a very important historic picture when you start looking at events in history,” he said in an interview. “And those emblems and monuments that exist today are a reminder of where we started from and where we are today.”

The bill, named the Alabama Heritage Protection Act, would prevent removing, altering, renaming, rededicating or otherwise disturbing historic markers associated with events dating as far back as the French and Indian War and as recently as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to protecting monuments on state grounds, the bill also would prevent the alteration or removal of monuments on property owned by a city or county.

Allen, who has eight Senate co-sponsors on the bill, must win support of two-thirds of the Alabama Legislature because the bill lies outside the scope of Gov. Robert Bentley’s call for a special session focused on the state’s cash-strapped budget.

Allen said the bill is not meant as a reaction to the governor’s order to remove four Confederate flags from a monument next to the Capitol.

“This bill covers it all, and that’s important,” he said. “It really is. For a great country as we are, for us to erase parts of history, that’s not American. That doesn’t fit the First Amendment.”

Bentley has said he has no plans to remove any other Confederate monuments on Capitol grounds.

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, has called for other symbols such of the Confederacy - such as a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis - to come down. In an interview Thursday, Sanders said legislation to prohibit removing monuments would be a “serious mistake.”

“It would be a very serious mistake to pass it,” he said. “Those monuments ought to be dealt with as they come up. So a bill to stop any monuments from being removed - white supremacy monuments, in particular - I just think it’s a mistake. I hope he does not move forward with that bill.”

Sanders, one of 14 African-American legislators arrested for trespassing in 1988 when they tried to take down a Confederate flag that once flew atop the Alabama Capitol dome, said the legislation would place Alabama in the same situation as South Carolina. South Carolina was required to pass legislation to remove a Confederate flag from state Capitol grounds despite Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for its removal.

“You could lower the United States flag but you could not lower the Confederate flag,” he said. “Trying to pass a law would be going right where South Carolina is coming from, and it would be a mistake.”



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