Alabama bill would raise fines for taking down Confederate statues

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

A legislative committee advanced a proposal Tuesday to increase the fines on cities that take down Confederate monuments in Alabama.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee advanced a bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa that would increase the fine for violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which prohibits the removal and renaming of monuments and memorials that have stood for at least 40 years. The bill would increase the fine from a $25,000 one-time fee to a $5,000 per day fine that would accumulate until the monument is replaced.

Allen said he believed the heftier fine would serve as a deterrent. Some Alabama cities have opted to pay the current $25,000 fine as part of the cost of taking down a Confederate monument

“The fine will stay there until the monument, statue, street sign — whatever it may be — is replaced,” Allen told the committee.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, a Democrat from Birmingham, said she believed the $5,000 daily fine was excessive, particularly for smaller cities.

“You are going up and up and up and up, and now you are in the punitive stage,” Coleman-Madison said of the total fines a city could face.

While the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act does not mention Confederate monuments, it was enacted as some Southern states and cities began removing monuments and emblems of the Confederacy.

Birmingham and several other cities have been fined under the law for taking down Confederate monuments. Most recently, the Alabama attorney general’s office told Montgomery officials that the city faces a $25,000 fine for renaming Jeff Davis Avenue for Fred Gray, a famed civil rights attorney who represented Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The bill also calls for the Alabama Historical Commission to design, construct and place a statue of the late civil rights leader John Lewis by the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Lewis, a native of Alabama who became a long-serving Georgia congressman, was beaten by state troopers on the bridge in a melee known as Bloody Sunday.

The committee also advanced a bill that would make it a felony offense, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to damage a historic monument while “participating in a riot, aggravated riot, or unlawful assembly.” Both bills now move to the full Alabama Senate.