The Alabama Legislature has passed a bill that would protect any historical monuments, including those honoring members of the Confederacy, from removal.
State lawmakers had bitterly debated the merits of the legislation, with supporters asserting that it would help preserve Alabama history while critics contended that blocking any attempts to remove Confederate monuments would help enshrine the legacy of slaveholders and white supremacists.
On May 19, an Alabama conference committee voted to approve of a finalized version of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. The legislation would only need the signature of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama to become law.
The language of the legislation called for protections on all state monuments but was crafted to protect Confederate memorials from removal, AP reports.
The bill stated that Alabama lawmakers would be prohibited from “the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument that has stood on public property for 40 or more years.”
Republican state. Sen Gerald Allen of Alabama, who sponsored the legislation, described the measure as a safeguard against a “wave of political correctness.”
The legislation had been fiercely debated in both the Alabama House and Senate, with Democrats and African American lawmakers accusing their GOP colleagues of working to enshrine a racist legacy.
“This type of legislation … continues to put Alabama in a negative light, which it is known for racism, discrimination,” said Democratic Rep. Juandalynn Givan of Alabama, according to AL.com.
“Man, the Civil War is over with,” Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes of Alabama said on the House floor. “The South lost the Civil War. I don’t care how bad you wanted to win.”
Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders of Alabama asserted that implementing protections for Confederate monuments would be a slap in the face of the state’s African American residents.
“You say we are protecting history,” Sanders told supporters of the bill. “We are not protecting history. We are protecting monuments that represent oppression to a large part of the people in the state of Alabama.”
Republican state Rep. Mack Butler of Alabama blasted calls for any Confederate monuments to be taken down, defending the shrines as integral to the state’s history.
“We don’t need to go back and just tear up the pages of our textbook,” Butler said. “Are you good with the sanitizing of history as we’re seeing in New Orleans?”
In December 2015, the New Orleans city council voted to remove several Confederate monuments. On May 19, the city tore down the statue of Robert E. Lee, PBS NewsHour reports.
The city’s decision sparked outrage throughout the South. On May 20, Republican state Rep. Karl Oliver of Mississippi took to social media to call for violence against Louisiana lawmakers, The Times-Picayune reports.
“If the, and I use the term extremely loosely, ‘leadership’ of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED!” Oliver wrote on his Facebook page.
The Magnolia state lawmaker’s comments were condemned by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi. Oliver later released a statement apologizing “for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians.”