- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2019

The Alabama Supreme Court said last week that the city of Birmingham can’t block the view of a Confederate monument in a public park, siding with the state after it sued the majority-black city to protect the memorial.

In a 46-page opinion, the state’s highest court said city officials had materially altered the monument when they erected plywood around it to block the view.

The stone monument stands 42 feet tall and was erected in 1905 by the Pelham Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to honor Confederate soldiers who fought in that park during the Civil War, naming the structure the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

The court’s decision comes after the state of Alabama sued the city, saying it violated the Memorial Preservation Act, a 2017 state law banning the removal and altering of Confederate statues more than 40 years old.

A lower court had ruled the state law ran afoul of free speech rights.

“Although the plywood screen does not physically touch the monument, we must agree with the State that the plywood screen changes the appearance of the monument and so modifies and interferes with the monument,” the state’s high court ruled.

State officials applauded the decision.

“The Alabama Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion today in reversing the Jefferson County Circuit Court decision striking down Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act,” state Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for the Alabama law which seeks to protect historical monuments. The City of Birmingham acted unlawfully when it erected barriers to obstruct the view of the 114-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park.”

State Sen. Gerald Allen, who wrote the Memorial Preservation Act, said the ruling was a victory for historic preservation.

“Some very important events took place in this state that affects the whole country,” Mr. Allen told WBMA News in Birmingham. “I think that’s important to protect the history not try to whitewash it, do away with it, or pretend it never happened but to let it be a great lesson for all Alabamians and this great country as well.”

Rick Journey, a city spokesman, said the decision was less about the law and “more about politics.”

“We are carefully reviewing the opinion to determine our next step, but clearly the citizens of Birmingham should have the final decision about what happens with monuments on Birmingham city grounds,” Mr. Journey said.

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