Protestors gathered in Birmingham went to work to remove a statue erected in a public park with ties to the confederacy.
According to AL.com, the group gathered at Linn Park following a rally in memory of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died on Memorial Day shortly after his arrest by officers from the Minneapolis Police Department. However, a speech at the rally from comedian Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson led many to the park after Johnson encouraged them to meet him there.
“We’ve got a lot cities around the country. They’re tearing down Target. They’re tearing down city hall. We can’t do that. We gotta protect our city,” Johnson told the crowd before saying that protestors couldn’t destroy historic civil rights locations like the 16th Street Baptist Church. “But what I’m not telling you to do is walk to Linn Park. I’m not telling to walk to Linn Park after this rally. I’m not telling you to tear something down in Linn Park. I’m not telling you that I’m going to be over there after this rally.”
Linn Park contains several statues, including one of Charles Linn, the park’s namesake and a founder of Birmingham who fought for the Confederate States during the Civil War, and the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument, built in the shape of an obelisk.
That monument was erected in 1905 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and has been the result of controversy between the city and the Alabama Attorney General’s office. The statue of Linn was built in 2013 by a local organization to honor the work of one of Linn’s descendants.
Photos shared to Twitter by WBRC reporter Brittany Dionne showed the brass cast of Charles Linn on the ground with portions of the statue covered in graffiti.
A video, shared by Jonathan Hardison, another WBRC reporter, captured the moment that the statute fell, via a rope tied around it. When it toppled, many in the group began to cheer.
According to AL.com, protestors used rocks and other items to chip away at the base of the obelisk statue. They also used a pickup to try and rip it down with a rope. However, the rope broke.
Reports from local media indicated a police presence at the park while protestors attempted to bring down the statue, but did not interfere with their efforts. However, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin did later encourage protestors to leave, telling them to give him 24 hours to remove the statue from the park.
“I understand the frustration and the anger that you have. Allow me to finish the job for you,” Woodfin told the crowd, AL.com reported, he also warned the protestors that if they remained in the park and continued to try and bring the statue down that police would come in and begin making arrests.
Newsweek reached out to the mayor’s office for additional comment regarding plans to remove the statue, but did not hear back by publication time.
The obelisk has been involved in a legal battle between the City of Birmingham and Alabama’s attorney general. In 2017, the city and then-Mayor William Bell were subjected to a lawsuit from the AG’s office for covering the statue with tarps and plywood in violation of Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act. However, the city stated that they were not out of step with the state law as the monument had not been altered in any way.
The Memorial Preservation Act prohibits the removal or changing of any monument that has been erected for more than 40 years without the approval of the state.
Two years of legal battles ensued, with the Alabama Supreme Court overturning a district court ruling in November 2019 that said the city was being denied free speech via the law. In January of this year the city was ordered to keep the monument up and to pay a $25,000 fine for violating the state statute.
This is at least the second statue to be defaced in the South this weekend. On Saturday, a confederate statue at the University of Mississippi was spray-painted with the words ‘spiritual genocide’ as well as red handprints. Like the Linn Park statue, that monument has been the subject of controversy and the university awaiting a ruling on if it can be moved to another location.