MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Two statues at the center of much controversy have been removed from two Memphis parks.
The Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue was officially taken down Wednesday night at 9:01 p.m., and the Jefferson Davis statue was removed later the same night at 10:44 p.m. The action comes after the City of Memphis sold Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park to Memphis Greenspace, Inc., a local nonprofit.
Wednesday evening, the city council voted to immediately remove the statues.
BREAKING: Memphis City Council votes to take down confederate statues in the city. pic.twitter.com/YGY36vnxJm— Scott Madaus (@scottmadaus) December 20, 2017
Memphis mayor, Jim Strickland, later confirmed that both Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park were sold. The properties, which were publicly owned, are now privately owned by a non-profit organization called Memphis Greenspace, Inc.
Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park have been sold. Operations on those sites tonight are being conducted by a private entity and are compliant with state law. We will have further updates later tonight.— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) December 21, 2017
Moments ago, I signed the ordinance that completed our sale of the parks. pic.twitter.com/LZH00Pa6cv— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) December 21, 2017
Read statements from a number of groups, including the National Civil Rights Museum, below the following videos.
Watch the moment the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue was removed:
Watch the moment the Jefferson Davis statue was removed:
Mayor Jim Strickland reacts to statue removals:
The Memphis branch of the NAACP released the following statement:
Today history is being made with the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis statutes from what are now privately-owned parks. The NAACP Memphis Branch took a position early on stating that we wanted the monuments removed and a legal process followed. The Memphis City Council and Mayor Jim Strickland heard the voices of the people who wanted these removed and legally made it happen. Groups like the NAACP and #Takeemdown901 led by Tami Sawyer have been heard.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans released the following statement:
At the Memphis city council meeting tonight, the city voted to remove the Forrest statue and Jefferson Davis statue immediately. At this moment, the parks are surrounded by Memphis City police and cranes are on site, the statues will be moved tonight. They are willfully violating the Heritage Preservation act; the City has broken state law.
This has been a well-organized, behind the scenes plan by the city. They deliberately did this after hours to prevent action on our part. State officials have been contacted and will address this immediately. All of the SCV leadership from National, Army, Division and Brigades are working on this matter.
My advice to each of you is to stay away from Memphis; I would say that the Memphis police will not tolerate any action around these statues.
- James G. Patterson, Tennessee Division Commander
Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) released the following statement:
“I commend Mayor Strickland and the City Council for finding a way to legally remove statues from an era that is not representative of Memphis today and have remained an affront to most of the citizens of Memphis. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, it’s important that these relics of the Confederacy and defenders of slavery don’t continue to be displayed in prominent places in our city. Hopefully, the Forrests will be returned to their rightful and preferred burial spot – Elmwood Cemetery.”
The National Civil Rights Museum issued the following statement:
The National Civil Rights Museum applauds the City of Memphis and the Memphis City Council for identifying a solution and removing the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis. We also applaud the efforts of concerned citizens who brought attention to the issue and diligently pushed for resolution.
For decades, these statues have haunted African Americans in this community, symbolizing oppression, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism. These figures represented a time when the majority of the city’s population was considered 3/5ths human and the property of the minority. They symbolized the legalization of a society that for years agreed with the separate but equal laws of Jim Crow. Their presence was a constant reminder that the Constitution on which this country was founded was only applicable to a particular group of people.
While we recognize that the removal of the statues will not change hearts and minds, nor eliminate the racial and ethnic discrimination that continues today, it is a step in the right direction, acknowledging that the atrocities of the past and those that committed them should not be placed on a public pedestal.
- Terri Lee Freeman, President, National Civil Rights Museum
See below for the ordinance presented at the city council meeting:
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