The Memphis City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to sponsor an ordinance that allows the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Health Sciences Park and Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park, as well as any related artifacts to be immediately removed from the City, even if the Tennessee Historical Commission denies the city's waiver request in October.
Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating equal access to public parks, council attorney Allan Wade told the council's executive committee that the best way to legally remove the statues is to start an ordinance that establishes a city policy for the immediate removal of the Confederate monuments from public spaces.
This policy, he says, is based on the notion that the two statues, and artifacts like it on city-owned property "constitute a public nuisance," which state law defines as anything that interferes with the public's use enjoyment of the spaces.
Wade continues that the statues "potentially infringe upon the civl rights of the significant majority of the population of the city."
Violating someone's constitutional rights takes precedent over state laws, Wade says.
If you start with a Constitutional premise, he says, "there is no justifications for these statues to be there as an impediment to African Americans."
If passed, the ordinance will not take effect until after the THC votes on the Forrest statue waiver at its October 13 meeting.
Wade says he wants to allow the THC to "do the right thing. If they don't, then this ordinance says unleash the dogs."
The final vote for the ordinance is set for October 3.