Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Appeals Court Sides With City in Confederate Statue Suit

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 12:15 PM

click to enlarge Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park
  • Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a decision made by Davidson County Chancery Court denying the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) a temporary injunction against the city of Memphis for removing Confederate statues from formerly city-owned parks.

The SCV sought a temporary injunction in 2018 to preserve two Memphis parks that were the home of three Confederate monuments, until they were removed in 2017.

Last year, the Davidson County Chancery Court determined that the monuments were no longer on public property and therefore were not covered under the Tennessee Historical Protection Act (THPA) of 2013.

In a decision filed Tuesday, Judge Frank Clement Jr. upheld that ruling, saying that SCV cannot seek an injunction because the Forrest statue is no longer on public property and “thus was no longer a memorial whose status could be preserved.”

“Thus, our purpose is not to address the merits of SCV’s underlying claim or whether, in an enforcement action, the trial court might have jurisdiction under the THPA to enjoin a private entity from further disposing of memorials or issue a mandatory injunction to restore memorials already removed,” Clement wrote. “Rather, we are called upon to decide whether the trial court erred in denying SCV’s request for a preliminary injunction.

“We affirm the trial court’s judgment and dissolve the trial court’s stay of its decision pending this appeal.”

The THPA prohibits removing any monuments or memorials in public spaces without being granted a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC).

The city sought a waiver in 2017, but the THC denied it. The THPA doesn’t prohibit the city from selling the parks to a private entity, which the city did in December 2017.

The same night that the city sold the two parks containing statues of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest, as well as a bust of James Harvey Mathes, to the nonprofit Memphis Greenspace for $1,000 each, the city removed the statues.

Members of the SCV could now take the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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