Alabama Attorney General Sues Birmingham for Removing Confederate Monument

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit against the city of Birmingham for removing a controversial Confederate statue amid heated protests over the death of George Floyd.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin removed the obelisk-like monument to Confederate soldiers on Monday, one day after protesters had unsuccessfully attempted to destroy it. On Tuesday, Marshall filed suit, complaining that Birmingham is liable for a $25,000 penalty due to the statue being removed in violation of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a 2017 law prohibiting monuments from being removed or altered without state permission.

"I advised Mayor Woodfin that the removal of the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Birmingham's Linn Park would violate the law and that I would fulfill my duty to enforce it," Marshall said in a statement. "Monday night, the City of Birmingham removed the monument and today I am filing a new lawsuit against the City for violating Alabama law."

The 115-year-old statue had been targeted for destruction by protesters on Sunday. When efforts at bringing the massive statue down failed, Woodfin stepped in and offered to help "finish the job." The statue was removed the following day.

Confederate Sailors and Soldiers Monument
The partially-obscured Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands next to another Confederate statue at Birmingham, Alabama's Linn Park on August 18, 2017. Hal Yeager/Getty

The city of Birmingham, whose residents are over 70 percent black, had previously attempted to remove the statue in 2015, prompting the introduction of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. The law was later used to fine the city after barricades were put up around the statue in 2017.

Woodfin said that the city was prepared pay the $25,000 the state has charged them to remove the statue during a Wednesday interview on NBC.

"I chose to protect the city to avoid any more civil unrest," Woodfin said. "It's probably better for our city to pay this civil fine than it is to have more civil unrest in our city."

Woodfin also suggested that of those seeking to keep the monument in the city had a poor understanding of history, pointing out that Birmingham was founded in 1871, six years after the Confederacy collapsed due to being defeated in the Civil War.

"It's important to note that the city of Birmingham wasn't even a city during the Civil War," said Woodfin. "We don't have time to worry about something that's not working for our city and relegates black people to property and slavery. So, it's important that we take this down and move forward."

The attorney general could have sought a far higher fine if an amendment pushed by Republican state lawmakers earlier in the year had not stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The amended penalty would have been $10,000 per day, as opposed to the current one-time fine of $25,000 per violation.

Since the monument has now been removed, it is unlikely the state will be able to legally impose any further penalties, assuming it does not return.

Newsweek reached out to Woodfin's office for comment. This article will be updated with any response.