There has been much controversy — including a deadly rally — surrounding the removal of Confederate statues throughout the country in recent month. But onlookers in Tennessee cheered in near-unanimous celebration as Confederate statues were removed from two parks in Memphis.
At the first park, crews removed a statue of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was a slave trader, a Ku Klux Klan leader, and a Confederate general. At the second park, Fourth Bluff Park, they took down a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The city of Memphis had previously attempted to remove the monuments after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as after the Charleston church massacre, where nine people died in a racially-motivated shooting. Protestors of the statues said they represented racism and bigotry, but city laws prevented them from being removed.
On Wednesday, December 20th, the City Council voted unanimously to sell the two parks where the statues were located to Greenspace Inc. Memphis Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen said that Greenspace — a private company — would be able to legally remove the statues, which they did immediately. Live video footage of the process shows a strong police presence and cheering onlookers. McMullen said the statues would be stored in an undisclosed location.
Supporters of the statues, like the Sons Of Confederate Veterans in Memphis, say the moments represent an important time in history, not white supremacy. Although they say the city is breaking the law by taking them down, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland tweeted that the action was perfectly legal.
In a series of tweets, Mayor Strickland explained the course of action they took in removing the statues and why they made the decision to sell the parks. He also shared his pride in the city for removing Confederate statues, and urged everyone to use this as a time to come together.