Today, plywood still covers our Confederate Veterans' Monument in Birmingham as it has since August 2017.
This desecration continues, in spite of the Memorial Preservation Act passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature; after two years of taxpayer-paid litigation by Attorney General Steve Marshall; and after Alabama's Supreme Court's decision Nov. 27, 2019, declaring Birmingham violated the law by covering the monument.
The Supreme Court also ruled that cities can pay a one-time fine of $25,000 and violate this law by altering a monument or renaming a street that is named for an historic figure, such as Robert E. Lee or Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom are honored with a state holiday this Monday.
Marshall maintained that the clear intent of the Legislature was for a $25,000 per day fine for each violation, not a total fine of $25,000.
However, the Court ruled: "If the Legislature intended to penalize the City defendants for each day they remained in violation of the Act, it could have specifically so provided, as it has done in numerous other civil Statutes."
Justice Michael Bolin added: "I question whether a fine in the total amount of $25,000 discourages such conduct by a public entity, and I encourage the Legislature to revisit the Act, to consider the adequacy of the amount of the fine. A single fine in this amount for an intentional violation of the Statute, after over two years of litigation, seems to be a minute (insignificant) deterrence for the same or similar future conduct.”
Republican legislators can correct their obvious fumble by amending this Act to read $25,000 per day for each violation. As it is now, Birmingham can pay $25,000 one time and leave the plywood, which simply amounts to a license to destroy history.
Roger K. Broxton, president
Confederate Heritage Fund