When it comes to removing the Confederate statues at two Memphis parks, is what the city did legal? People have a lot of questions about the city taking down the statues. Were laws violated? What kind of legal claims can be made?
When contractors removed the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, it happened after the city turned the property over to a nonprofit group, to avoid state regulations governing the removal of Confederate monuments.
University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy believes it was a totally legal move.
“The city has every legal right to sell property to a private entity. The private entities are not covered by the state statute governing what to do with the statues, so it’s a loophole, and they found it and they used it,” says Mulroy.
Many are anticipating legal challenges by statue supporters, possibly an open meetings challenge because there was not a lot of discussion during regular council meetings about transferring ownership of the park.
“I think that’s very hard to prove (that) there was a Sunshine Act violation. There are ways they could have been briefed on this behind closed doors, that would not have violated the Sunshine law,” says Mulroy.
Lee Millar with the Sons of Confederate Veterans believes the city violated several laws, including desecrating a grave, because Forrest and his wife are buried there. Millar says he’s discussed legal options with attorneys. Don’t be surprised if his group files suit against the city and the park’s new owner.
“They certainly violated the Heritage Protection Act, both of them. Doing this by attempting to sell it to a private entity is a direct attempt to circumvent state law,” said Millar.