Two Confederate memorials were removed from separate city parks in Memphis, TN, on Wednesday. Months of legal battles culminated in the sale of both parks to a nonprofit—a move that was required to circumvent Tennessee’s laws prohibiting the removal of memorials on public property.
By Thursday, less than 24 hours after the monuments were dragged off, Republican lawmakers summarily responded by announcing an investigation into the sale of both parks. “We are governed by the rule of law here in Tennessee and these actions are a clear infringement of this principle and set a dangerous precedence for our state,” said House Majority Leader Glen Casada and House Republican caucus chairman Ryan Williams in a statement.
The Tennessean also reported that Attorney General Herbert Slatery and House Speaker Beth Harwell would work with the state legislature’s Republicans in an investigation that will “recommend action to the full body of the legislature.”
Translation: Tennessee Republicans fought tooth and nail to prevent the removal both statues, which, by the way, depict former Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest; they lost and now they are bitter.
In October, city officials requested a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove both monuments despite their placement on public property. The waiver was denied, so the city council and Mayor Jim Strickland organized for the nonprofit, Memphis Greenspace, to purchase the parks for $1000 each.
Strickland reiterated the sale’s legality on Wednesday night. “I was committed to remove the statues in a lawful way. From the beginning, we have followed state law—and tonight’s action is no different,” he said. “The Historical Commission was not the only legal avenue.”
Just in case it wasn’t readily apparent that the Republicans’ reaction was about the removal of monuments and not about whether the city acted improperly by selling public parks to a private buyer, Lt. Governor Randy McNally clarified.
In a statement, McNally said he was “saddened” by the city’s decision to remove statues of two Confederate leaders, despite their “troubling histories.”
Strickland, however, is not worried about an investigation into the removal process. “We welcome any review, ‘cause we are confident this was a legal transaction,” Strickland said. “And we’ll answer any questions and provide any documents.”