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State acts against some cities over monument removal, but not Anniston

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed suit last week against Madison County for its removal of a Confederate monument, but so far there is no indication of action against Anniston for a similar monument removal.

“The situation with Anniston is resolved,” said Bruce Downey, Anniston’s city attorney.

Marshall on Friday announced the state’s plan to sue the Madison County Commission, which on Oct. 23 removed a monument to Confederate soldiers at the Madison County Courthouse and moved it to Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, according to Marshall’s suit.

The Alabama Legislature in 2017 passed a law that prohibits removal of monuments and alteration of many named streets and buildings without approval of a state-appointed monuments commission.

Cities and counties that do remove monuments can face a $25,000 fine.

The Anniston City Council decided to go ahead and set aside money to pay that fine when it voted 4-1 to remove an obelisk dedicated to Confederate officer John Pelham from the median of Quintard Avenue earlier this year.

As of Monday there were no indications of any move by Marshall to sue Anniston over the monument move. Downey, the city attorney, said he doesn’t expect a lawsuit because the city has already agreed to pay the fine.

Attempts to reach officials at the attorney general’s office for comment were unsuccessful Monday. Marshall on Monday morning did release a video and a press release addressing the issue.

“Any elected official who removes a historic monument or statue in violation of Alabama law has broken the law,” Marshall says in the video. “He has not simply decided to ‘pay a fee’ so that he can lawfully have the monument or statue removed. He has committed an illegal act.”

In the video, Marshall doesn’t outline any particular action he plans to take against officials who defy the monuments law, although he does urge Alabamians to “take note of those casting votes.”

If Anniston voters object to the monument removal, they haven’t said so clearly at the ballot box. The only councilman who voted against the monument removal, Ben Little, lost his council seat in municipal runoff elections in October. Three of the four council members who voted for the removal were re-elected; another former councilman, David Reddick, didn’t run for re-election to his council seat, seeking instead to challenge Mayor Jack Draper.

Pelham was killed during the Civil War; he wasn’t from Anniston, which was founded long after the war had ended. He’s still honored in Jacksonville, where the main thoroughfare, Pelham Road, bears his name.

In voting to remove the monument, council members cited a desire to “create an inclusive environment” in public spaces.

City workers in September moved the obelisk to Janney Furnace, a Civil-War-themed park in Ohatchee.

 

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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