ON CITY GROUND: The Sons of Confederate Veterans paid for this statue on city of Little Rock land to remember Confederate troops that seized the federal arsenal there during the Civil War.

A judge in Alabama has invalidated that state’s law aimed at preventing local governments from removing monuments to the Confederacy. This has relevance in Arkansas because of pending legislation.

The state of Alabama sued the city of Birmingham, which in 2017 covered up a monument to Confederate soldiers. The state cited a state law aimed at preventing removal or alteration of historic monuments and other structures.

“The state has placed a thumb on the scale for a pro-confederacy message,” Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo wrote in his opinion, saying that by forcing the city to leave the monument alone, the state was infringing on Birmingham’s right to free speech.

“A city has a right to speak for itself, to say what it wishes, and to select the views that it wants to express,” Graffeo added. He said the law didn’t provide adequate ways for the city to reject the monument’s “message of white supremacy.”

Some conservative commentators contend that local governments are instruments of the state in Alabama (as they are in Arkansas) and thus the judge in this case was out of line. Many more court actions are to come. But let’s return to Arkansas.

Enter Rep. Johnny Rye of Trumann, a font of bad legislation. He’s introduced legislation this session that’s a virtual carbon copy of the Alabama law.  Rye calls his the Heritage Protection Act.

Advertisement

It defines historic edifices — and it is not restricted to Confederate remembrances but I’m unaware of any current controversy about, for example, the French and Indian War — and says about those on public property;

A monument shall not be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed.

A waiver may be sought from the state History Commission. Violation of the law would be a Class D felony.

Get out your Confederate money and battle flags, boys, I think some colorful hearings lie ahead.

There’s been little movement to do anything about Arkansas’s many Confederate memorials, including a couple on the Capitol grounds. I have heard on occasion from isolated voices about the memorial to Confederate soldiers on the grounds of the city of Little Rock’s MacArthur Park and its Military Museum. City fathers and mothers have expressed no reservations about it.