Judge rules Memphis maneuver to remove Confederate statues was legal

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled Wednesday that the City of Memphis had a legal right to sell two city parks to a nonprofit organization that then removed Confederate monuments from the premises, reports the Commercial Appeal.

She also lifted an injunction preventing the nonprofit, Memphis Greenspace Inc., from finding a new home for the statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis and Capt. J Harvey Mathes… though giving the plaintiff, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp 215, time to appeal and seek a new injunction.

Following the ruling, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland tweeted: “This ruling reaffirms what we’ve said from the start: Everything was handled in a lawful manner.”

Tami Sawyer, who helped lead the grassroots TakeEmDown901 movement against the statues, said the ruling was a significant victory in a generations-long fight against “structures of hatred.”

“You lost the Civil War, and you just lost this one, too,” Sawyer said. “It’s time to move on. It’s even more of a lost cause to keep on fighting us on these statues.”

… Lyle rejected the Sons of Confederate Veterans argument that Greenspace was a “sham” set up by the city for the sole purpose of circumventing the strict Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, which requires the Tennessee Historical Commission to approve the removal of any statues from public property.

“The wording of the law, the 2016 Act, does not apply to private property,” she said in her ruling. “Yet, the Statues were located on and were removed from private property. Thus, this Court is not empowered to issue an injunction concerning the Statues, and it must dissolve the temporary restraining order.”

The ruling means Memphis Greenspace can begin planning for the future of the statues, moving them to an appropriate place as opposed to a public park, (Greenspace Director Van) Turner said.

“I think that allows us to really get serious about transferring the statues to any number of Civil War memorial parks or museums,” he said.

Note: The full opinion is HERE.

11 Responses to Judge rules Memphis maneuver to remove Confederate statues was legal

  • Avatar
    Lance Persson says:

    Wonder who appointed this judge. Hope there will be an appeal.

    • Tom Humphrey
      Tom Humphrey says:

      Interesting bit of history there: She was appointed — twice — by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist and ran, after the first appointment as a Republican (1996) and lost. After the second appointment to fill a vacancy (1998), she ran as a Democrat and won. Subsequently reelected as a Democrat.

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    Henry Walker says:

    Mr. Persson, you should read the opinion and see if you can find anything that you think an appellate court would overturn. I didn’t.

  • Avatar
    Lance Persson says:

    Henry, You are probably right, I am certainly not a lawyer.

    I do think though that is was morally wrong and certainly not something I would regard as the American way of doing things. The fact is that the statues were history and it was those who insist the monuments go, that are the ones full of hate. Their actions clearly show this. People like Robert E. Lee, though they lost the war, are among the most honorable people in our history. To tear down, move or hide their statues is WRONG.

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    Eddie White says:

    Who should be surprised that a judge ruled against the Sons of Confederate Veterans? There would have moral outrage otherwise. The judge rejected the notion that what Memphis did was a sham? You can label he city’s actions any way you want to, but please don’t insult our intelligence by claiming it was not a sham.

  • Avatar
    Henry Walker says:

    Lance, I agree with you that the statues should stay. They are part of our shared history.

    Mr. White, I also thought the city’s actions were a sham until I read the court’s opinion, which relies in part upon the Tennessee Comptroller’s investigation of the sale of the park to a non-profit organization. The Comptroller concluded the sale was not a sham and cited several other transactions in which the city had sold property to a non-profit for a nominal price. I learned much from reading the opinion that has not been reported in the news. I disagree with the city’s decision but it was clearly not illegal, as the Tennessee legislature implicitly recognized when they recently amended the law to close that particular loophole.

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    Eddie White says:

    Mr. Walker, I will defer to your reading of the opinion. Having watched the tape of the nighttime raid on the park, it sure seems Memphis must have thought they were up to something shamly( the word is my creation). In any case, if the city found a loophole, I am glad the legislature closed it.

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    William Upton says:

    Maybe the State of TN can sell Memphis? Just a thought.

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    Randy Hendon says:

    So sad today for the City of Memphis – the removal was wrong in several respects –
    First, all History should be respected and it is Anti American to remove them!
    Second, Monuments are more important to the South because most of our dead were
    never returned to the families – they were buried in trenches at the site where they fell.
    The South never had closure for the deceased – our Monuments are NOT symbols of White Supremacy!
    Third, Memphis is now regarded as an enigma in the State of Tennessee- look at the votes to amend the Protection Law! As a resident of Memphis for nearly 60 years – this is one of the saddest chapters in my memory.

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    Cannoneer2 says:

    It can’t be much more obvious that Greenspace is a sham.

  • Avatar
    Charles says:

    Statues, Tom, not statutes.

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