Judge to hear suit over Confederate memorial in Tuskegee

An Alabama judge is scheduled to consider arguments this week in a legal fight over a Confederate monument that has stood for more than a century in mostly black Tuskegee

TUSKEGEE, Ala. -- A Macon County judge is scheduled to consider arguments this week in a legal fight over a Confederate monument that has stood for 116 years in mostly black Tuskegee.

Circuit Judge Steven Perryman has set a hearing for Thursday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Macon County and some residents against the local and state chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected scores of rebel monuments across the South in the early 1900s.

The lawsuit, filed by civil rights attorney Fred Gray, argues that Macon County wrongfully gave a square to the Confederate group for the statue and a segregated, whites-only park in 1906. A decision in favor of the county could lead to removal of the monument, which features a statue of a Confederate soldier and has been the subject of on-and-off protests for decades.

But the United Daughters of the Confederacy contends it owns the 2-acre (0.81-hectare) square legally, and the land is open to everyone. An attorney for the group said members want the monument to remain and have asked the judge to throw out the county's lawsuit, which was filed last year.

Perryman, writing in a court order, said he will consider the Confederate group’s request to dismiss the case and other motions during the hearing.

The monument was erected at a time when white supremacy reigned and pro-Confederate groups across the South were erecting Civil War memorials to honor rebel troops and portray the cause of the slave-holding South as noble. Hundreds of rebel monuments were taken down in recent years as they came to be seen as symbols of racial oppression against Black people.

While a 2017 Alabama law meant to protect rebel monuments imposes a $25,000 penalty for removing or altering any monument that's been in place for 40 or more years, the county filed suit anyway to take down the statue.

Former Mayor Johnny Ford used a saw to damage the statue in July in hopes it would topple over, but it didn’t and the county sued. The United Daughters of the Confederacy spent several thousand dollars on repairs, its lawyer said.