Forrest statue re­moval tops agenda

Coun­cil may au­tho­rize mayor to take it down be­fore re­ceiv­ing green light from his­tor­i­cal com­mis­sion

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

When the Ten­nessee His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion meets Oct. 13 in a small town out­side of Chat­tanooga, Mem­phis will be watch­ing — and wait­ing.

Mem­phis will be watch­ing be­cause the com­mis­sion could vote on the city's re­quest to waive state preser­va­tion laws to al­low the re­moval of a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Nathan Bed­ford Forrest from a pub­lic park in the heart of its bur­geon­ing med­i­cal dis­trict.

Mem­phis will be wait­ing be­cause the com­mis­sion de­ci­sion — or in­de­ci­sion, should the board de­lay a vote un­til the next meet­ing in Fe­bru­ary — could trig­ger the city's soon-to-be-de­cided con­tin­gency plan. The City Coun­cil is sched­uled to ap­prove an or­di­nance Tues­day af­ter­noon that will set a path for­ward — pos­si­bly by au­tho­riz­ing Mayor Jim Strick­land to take the statue down be­fore re­ceiv­ing the green light from the com­mis­sion.

Strick­land con­tin­ued to say Fri­day that all "le­gal" op­tions were on the ta­ble with­out clar­i­fy­ing whether he agrees with coun­cil at­tor­ney Al­lan Wade, who has ar­gued that the city has le­gal grounds for im­me­di­ate re­moval with­out com­mis­sion con­sent. Re­mov­ing the statue with­out state ap­proval would likely trig­ger a law­suit by the Sons of Con­fed­er­ate Vet­er­ans, a group that has op­posed the city in court be­fore.

"The Coun­cil's given no in­di­ca­tion that they want to take these stat­ues down il­le­gally," Strick­land said. "So, we'll just deal with that if they pro­pose that. Most of this com­mu­nity — the vast ma­jor­ity of Mem­phis — wants these stat­ues down but wants to do it legally."

The ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ceived a let­ter Thurs­day from His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion

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