Opinion: Legal showdown on Confederate statues appears ‘inevitable’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A legal showdown now appears inevitable over whether the city of Memphis can remove Confederate monuments from city owned parks.

The City Council took a bold step on Tuesday by approving an ordinance on the first of three readings that would take the statues out of the parks even without permission from the Tennessee Historical Commission. Mayor Jim Strickland favors relocating the statues honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis,  but he is hoping that the commission will grant a waiver allowing the city to legally move the monuments.

But last week, another state board rejected a request from Governor Bill Haslam and others to remove a bust of Forrest from the capital. Since several commissioners are also members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, granting the city`s waiver request seems iffy at best.

So a unanimous City Council is ready to act on its own to take down statues that many consider symbols of slavery, hate and oppression. The council is arguing that the statues constitute a public nuisance and deprive African-American citizens of the right to enjoy the parks without these divisive symbols towering over the property.

In all likelihood, the matter will wind up in court particularly if the Tennessee Historical Commission denies the waiver. If that happens, so be it because one way or another, these statues need to go.