Forrest statue removal tops agenda
Council may authorize mayor to take it down before receiving green light from historical commission
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