The Memphis City Council could soon give orders to board up two Confederate statues in local parks if the Tennessee Historical Commission does not approve its request to remove them entirely.
Pressure to remove the statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis is increasing in the wake of a violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, with the local group Take ‘Em Down 901 sending a letter to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland this week to demand action.
The city council voted to remove the statues last year, but state law requires a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission, which solicited public comments and imposed a 60-day waiting period but have not approved the move, WATN reports.
“We just need to get rid of them,” councilwoman Janice Fullilove said at a meeting Tuesday. “Get rid of them. I don’t care what it takes, how much it costs. Get rid of them.”
City officials are pressuring Gov. Bill Haslam to force a Tennessee Historical Commission to address the issue at a meeting set for October, and are now vetting a series of other proposals to shield the statues from the public in the meantime.
Options debated on Tuesday included the immediate removal and destruction of the statues, selling the monuments at an auction, asking Haslam to lean on the Historical Commission, and boarding up the statues for “protection,” WREG reports.
City attorney Allan Wade told the news site that other cities like Birmingham have covered over Confederate statues with plywood, and Memphis could follow suit if the intent is to preserve the historic structures.
At least some council members want to cover Lee and Davis, arguing that the statues honor an entity that attacked the United States.
“It would be no different than having a monument for Osama bin Laden,” Councilman Martavius Jones said. “There was nothing great that the Confederacy did.”
Others seemed to agree, for a variety of reasons.
Councilman Worth Morgan argued that police manpower necessary to protect the statues from social justice vandals could be put to better use.
“It’s past time that we relocate these statues to a more appropriate place,” he said. “Compassion is probably the best and only path forward for this city.”
Tami Sawyer, leader of Take ‘Em Down 901, presented the city council with a petition on Tuesday signed by 4,500 folks demanding the removal of the statues.
Sawyer said she really likes the idea of putting the statues behind plywood.
“I agree that we’ve got to find a common ground and get through this,” she said. “Boarding up the statues showing the shameful structures that they are. I really like the idea of bringing in community artists that attorney Wade shared to decorate those statues.”
The city council ultimately opted to delay any further action on the statues until its September meeting.
The council’s Tuesday meeting came on the same day state Sen. Lee Harris, of Memphis, formally requested Haslam take action on the issue.
“Haslam has come out against the display of a bust of Forrest in the state capitol, but has not weighed in on the Memphis landmarks,” WREG reports.
Meanwhile, social justice crusaders are continuing their campaign to eradicate all references to the Old South from the city, a campaign that started with some activists threatening to dig up Forrest’s grave, The American Mirror reports.