The Memphis City Council voted to sell two public parks containing Confederate monuments on Wednesday in a move that cleared the way for the statues to be torn down. The state had denied the council's bid to remove the statues earlier this month.
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The city unanimously voted to sell the Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park to a private entity, Memphis Greenspace Inc., which immediately took down the controversial monuments.
Health Sciences Park contained a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early member of the Ku Klux Klan. Memphis Park had a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Both statues were removed by Wednesday evening, according to Mayor Jim Strickland.
"History is being made in Memphis now," Strickland, who spoke at a press conference Wednesday night, said. “These statues no longer represent who we are as a modern diverse city with momentum.”
“It’s worth remembering that this is another step in a years-long journey of which many Memphians have been a part of,” he added.
Grateful for the leadership of Commissioner Walter Bailey and Rev. LaSimba Gray, who have been working on this issue for decades. I'm proud they're getting to see resolution tonight. pic.twitter.com/Hh4elmvutC— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) December 21, 2017
Strickland said support for the removals skyrocketed in August in the wake of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally -- which began in protest of the planned removal of a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee -- left one dead and 19 injured after a car-ramming attack.
Memphis Greenspace, which purchased the parks for $1,000 each, has agreed to maintain the parks and keep them open to the public, Strickland said. He said the monuments would be preserved in an undisclosed location.
Reaction to the sale and subsequent removal were mixed.
“It’s a wonderful thing and it’s something that we should celebrate,” Earle Fisher, a Memphis area pastor, told local news outlet WREG Wednesday night. “We know we have more work to do, but it’s always nice to get a win.”
“I think all of us who have fought to try to make sure that these racist relics no longer stand are trying to take it in right now,” he added.
Meanwhile, there were those who called the removal illegal and shameful.
"It is a deliberate attempt to avoid the state law and the city is breaking the law," Lee Millar with Sons of Confederate Veterans told WREG on Wednesday.