U.S. NEWS

Alabama Judge Axes Law Protecting Confederate Monuments

The law violates the free speech of people "repulsed" by a Birmingham obelisk, the judge ruled.

An Alabama judge has scrapped a state law preventing the removal of Confederate memorials on public property, ruling it violated the rights of local communities “repulsed” by a Birmingham monument, The Associated Press reported.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo ruled Monday that the 2017 law, which also guards against alteration of the memorials, infringed upon the free speech of the city’s residents, who are predominantly black. Graffeo ruled that the law, including its fine of $25,000 for a violation, cannot be enforced.

The state attorney general is likely to appeal.

At issue is a 52-foot obelisk dating to 1905, built to pay homage to Confederate troops. As the nation reckoned with such monuments in the aftermath of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, a 12-foot box was constructed around the base of the stone marker to cover its inscriptions. 

The protective legislation, passed in 2017, was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, who was inaugurated on Monday just before Graffeo’s ruling. During her campaign, Ivey took aim at “special interests” looking to “tear down our historical monuments” and decried “politically correct nonsense.” 

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin told AP he’s happy with the judge’s ruling.

“We were not even a city during the Civil War,” Woodfin noted.

CONVERSATIONS