I have been seeding about the removal of Confederate monuments for some years now. It's kind of become a thing with me. I didn't really start out thinking I'm going to learn a hell of a lot about the removal of Confederate monuments over the next few years. I started out with a seed about a lot of Confederate graves, chapels and memorials being vandalized. But about that same time the Confederate monument in Reidsville NC was hit by a sleepy or drunk driver and knocked down. May 23, 2011. This was my first exposure to monument removal, involuntary though it was. The city council decided, without informing the people, to just remove the rest of the monument and not to replace it.
That decision lead to the entire city council and mayor being voted out in the next election, with one exception. A woman who had been appointed to office after the death of one of the original councilmen. It divided the city and the county into several factions, none of whom wound up getting what they wanted. Except, oddly, the original city council. Their decision to remove the Confederate statue permanently stuck.
I will say, on a personal note, that I do NOT like the new statue at all. It's made of brushed aluminum and it looks like a bad art deco ashtray. I offer this story first because, though there were no death threats, no burned cars, no police cordons during removal, no protests, none of the things that came to be the norm at later and more famous Removals. It was, to my knowledge at least, the first removal of a Confederate monument by deliberate intent of the city fathers (capitalizing on a fortuitous accident). That's something, it was the first and it happened in my neighborhood, more or less, 20 miles from my house.
Let's move right across the NC/Va. border to Danville Va. Home of the Sutherlin mansion, final capital of the Confederacy and the place where Jefferson Davis negotiated the surrender of the South. The owners of the mansion couldn't keep it in repair and donated it to the city of Danville. The city decided to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the mansion and from all city property. The Sons of the Confederacy took the city to court over the removal. Ultimately, the Va. Supreme court decided to let a lower court ruling stand that said the city had the right to decide what was displayed on city property and that the rights of the plaintiffs were not being violated by the removal. The SoC protested outside the grounds of the mansion for months. There were other forms of protest as well. Never the less, the deed was done and the courts had ruled in favor of the city's right. A precedent was set that was cited successfully in defending another removal. That is why I mention the decision by Danville to outlaw all flags on city property except the US flag, the Va. flag and the POW flag, that ordinance, as worded, had unintended consequences. Some 'tweaking' of the ordinance was in order to allow the display of the flags of other nations on city property.
In this same time frame, as an act of personal belief, judge Martin Clark removed a painting of JEB Stuart from display in the courtroom of the Patrick co. circuit court. Not earth shattering or precedent setting, but encouraging.
Then things started to pick up speed. The removals in New Orleans were fraught with tension. The removals, except for 1, were done in the early morning hours. The name of the company doing the removals were taped over on the equipment and the workers wore masks and bullet proof vests. In the end the removals happened, took a ruling by the La. Supreme court that the city had the right to remove. Nothing much cute to say about this one. But the point of it is there was another court ruling supporting the right of the city over it's own property.
The removal in Charlottesville Va. is being done deliberately, with planning and little fanfare. There were 2 protests, one quite provocative, the other was 3 stooges vs. the world. Of course when you're talking KKK you're talking 3 stooges level stupid.
The reason I kept mentioning those court ruling in Va. and La. is because of this, the state of Ala. passed a law imposing a fine of up to 25000 dollars for any city or county that removes any Confederate memorial without state approval. It is my thinking that this law will be struck down in court. Because of the precedent of those 2 rulings about the right of cities to decide what is displayed on property they control. The state can make decisions about monuments on state property, but I think that the rights of cities and counties to decide what is displayed on property they control will trump this law.
So now we come to current affairs, the president of the Daughters of the Confederacy in Fla has come out in favor of removal all Confederate monuments from public property. This is real evolution of thought from the original position of Confederate boosters. It's the smart thing to do, it's the correct thing to do and I hope she is able to convince other Confederate memorial supporters to understand that the times, they ARE, by God changing. And it's time to get onboard with the changes.
Obviously I've omitted a lot of seeds that are just peripherally related to this topic but they are all there on my column somewhere if anyone wants to look. I have to say that I've been discouraged sometimes through the years when it seemed that the yahoos were winning but it looks like a corner has been turned in this struggle. Not that it's over, but the beginning of the beginning is over, now it's the beginning of the end game for the removal of these monuments to racism and white supremacy.