Confederate Monument Plans Spark Lawsuit

     LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN) – The city of Louisville is violating state and city law by dismantling a Civil War monument located on a state university campus, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and two Louisville residents claim in court.
     Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced plans for removing the 70-foot Confederate monument located on the University of Louisville campus in April.
     “It’s always important to remember and respect our history, but it’s equally important to reflect on that history in proper context,” Fischer said in a written statement.
     “This monument represents our history a painful part of our nation’s history for many — and it’s best moved to a new location,” he added.
     Fischer said the monument should not be located on a campus that celebrates diversity, and that it would be held in storage until another site for it could be selected.
     But in a complaint filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court, Everett Corley, a GOP Congressional hopeful, and his co-plaintiffs, which include the Sons of Confederate Veterans Kentucky Division, Inc., claim Fischer and the joint Louisville-Jefferson County metropolitan government are breaking Kentucky law and violating the National Historic Preservation Act, as the monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
     In a second court filing, the plaintiff add that the monument is not located on city property, but rather on state property, and thus is outside of the county’s authority.
     Sons of Confederate Veterans is the oldest standing non-profit group of male descendants of ex-Confederate troops, whose mission is “to preserve the history and legacy of these heroes so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause,” according to the group’s website.
     The local group is one of the “preeminent organizations devoted to historic preservation in Kentucky,” the complaint states.
     Fred Wilhite, the organization’s chief of heritage defense, told Courthouse News, “We see ISIS and they do the same thing: anything they don’t like, if it’s not something they approve of, they destroy it. That’s what’s going on all over the nation and it’s sad to see this approach. It’s history, and it’s going to be there forever. It’s part of our background as a nation.”
     “We want to respect our ancestors and their good name,” Wilhite continued. “And our ancestors are being vilified.”
     Jefferson County Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman has enjoined the city from dismantling the statute until the plaintiffs’ claims can be heard.
     Removal of the monument has been championed but a number people in the city, including University of Louisville professor Ricky Jones, who wrote about the controversy in his column in the local Courier-Journal newspaper.
     Jones said that for years, people have asked the monument be removed. He wrote, “For 20 years, I have walked by that towering granite and bronze eyesore glorifying the nadir of America’s past … “[The Civil War] was a war about slavery, plain and simple… Every battle flag, T-shirt, and monument to these inhumane traitors remind us of that fact.”
     Corley told Courthouse News that the city’s announcement of its plans for the monument was perfectly timed to happen days before the Kentucky Derby.
     Churchill Downs, where the derby is held, is located just one mile from the monument’s current location.
     “They put these tiny bulldozers next to the monument with three city workers poking at the statue with no engineer and no architect. This is all a big show!” Corley said. “Everyone knows you’d need a crane 60 feet high to topple that monument. This entire thing was a publicity stunt on the part of the mayor and university president.”
     The Jefferson County Attorney’s office declined to comment on Corley’s accusation.
     “We are aggressively defending our client in this case. As this is pending litigation, any responses we have will be filed with the court. A hearing is set for May 25,” Josh Abner, spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney’s office, told Courthouse News.
     But University of Louisville spokesman John Karman said the school will continue to “support the city as it moves through the court to achieve the relocation of the monument,”
     “We believe the monument should be reassembled elsewhere as a tribute to the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War. The monument is a significant reflection of a time that has passed, and its history is not about the Civil War but about the soldiers who died,” Karman said.
     The monument is made of granite and bronze and commemorates Confederate soldiers. The Kentucky Women’s Confederate Monument Association erected the monument in 1895 at a cost $12,000, in order to celebrate the 29th Grand Army of the Republic annual reunion.
     Thomas McAdam, III of Louisville represents the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction against the defendants.

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