By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (AP) — Officials in a majority-black county said Friday that they hope to permanently remove a now-covered Confederate memorial erected more than a century ago in the town square.
Macon County Commission Chairman Louis Maxwell said at a news conference that officials are researching ways to move the statue that sits in the town square of Tuskegee. Crews covered up the base of the statue after it was vandalized with anti-Ku Klux Klan graffiti last week.
“The end objective is to have the statue relocated,” Maxwell said. “We don’t have a problem with preserving it. I don’t want it destroyed. If somebody wants it, we’ll give it to them.”
Maxwell acknowledged that there will be a cost involved. A 2017 state law prohibits the removal of Confederate and other longstanding monuments. The mayor of Birmingham has said the potential $25,000 state fine for removing a Confederate monument was worth the cost.
In the weeks since George Floyd’s death set off protests across the U.S., many Confederate monuments have been damaged or taken down. Some were toppled by demonstrators and others removed by local authorities. Floyd died in Minneapolis last month after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
The city of Tuskegee is 96 percent black. It is the home of Tuskegee University and the place where the first black military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen, trained during World War II.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated the monument in 1909 during a time of entrenched white supremacy. The majority black county remained under white political control until the 1970s.
Elise Tolbert, who organized a unity gathering in the city, said symbols are powerful and the statue does not honor the lives of the people who call Tuskegee home.
“This statue does not represent our liberation. We respectfully ask for this statue to be moved because it is time for powerful symbols to represent our liberation, to respect and honor our lives,” Tolbert said.
Maxwell said while it is important to the county to remove the statue, he cautioned that the issue goes beyond lingering symbols of the Old South.
“No statue stood on the neck of George Floyd,” Maxwell said. “It was an individual.”