In January 2019, the Jefferson Circuit Court ruled in favor of the city, arguing that state law violated a community’s right to freedom of expression. That fall, however, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously overturned the ruling, ending legal challenges to the law at the state level.
“I knew we were breaking the law”
Even so, a growing number of local officials have shown themselves willing to break the law and pay the fine of $ 25,000. In Birmingham, the Democratic Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the memorial for soldiers and sailors to be removed a week after the murder of George Floyd in May. He argued that the fine was less costly than ongoing unrest.
In Lowndes County, where nearly 75 percent of the population is African-American, the county commissioners unanimously voted this year to remove a Confederate memorial that had stood outside the Hayneville courthouse for decades. “I knew we were breaking the law, but I just thought we had to do something,” said Dickson Farrior, 72, the commissioner who first pushed for the memorial to be removed. “It was white supremacy and we don’t need that.”
One of two white men on the commission, Mr Farrior, who has represented his district since 1985, said the county had set up a GoFundMe page to help pay the fine, but was pleasantly surprised when a local couple volunteered agreed to cover the $ 25,000 themselves.
“I don’t know if lawmakers thought you could actually pay to change your monuments,” said Paul Horwitz, a professor in the University of Alabama law school.
Still, said Mr Horwitz, a drumbeat of actions like those of Mr Reed and Mr Farrior could put pressure on lawmakers to rethink the law – or at least change it to allow more public discussion.
At the very least, the state can most likely expect more challenges from Mr Reed, who recently formed a committee of historians and community leaders to review the names of other public spaces in Montgomery.