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Confederate statues taken down overnight in Memphis, ripped as 'relics' of 'defenders of slavery

A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was taken down overnight Wednesday after a Memphis city council vote sold the parks where the statues stood. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Two Confederate monuments were taken down overnight Wednesday after Memphis' city council unanimously approved the sale of the public parks where the statues had been located, the Commercial Appeal reported.

As word spread that the monuments of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest would be removed from the parks, crowds gathered as a crane arrived to take down the Forrest statue around 6 p.m., the paper said.

Statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is taken down. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

And when the Forrest statue was placed on a truck just after 9 p.m., the crowd chanted "the people united will never be defeated," the Commercial Appeal reported.

How did others react to the statues' removal?

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen called the statues "an affront to most of the citizens of Memphis" and "relics of the Confederacy" that depict "defenders of slavery," the paper added.

Tami Sawyer — a leader of #TakeEmDown901 and Democratic candidate for Shelby County Commission, the Commercial Appeal said — called attention to activists who pressured elected officials as a driving force behind the statues' removal.

"This is thousands of people who came together to put names on petitions, to donate money and time ... to get arrested, to get people out of jail ... so here we are today as the year draws to a close seeing justice and righteousness happen," Sawyer said, the paper reported. "It means that can be possible for any of us on any of these issues as we continue to fight for equality and equity in Memphis."

The Rev. Earle Fisher, pastor of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, told the Commercial Appeal that the statues' removal is "a step in the right direction. I am not sure it’s time to take a victory lap quite yet but this is definitely something to celebrate."

The statues will be placed in an undisclosed location for security reasons, the paper added.

What about Sons of Confederate Veterans?

Sons of Confederate Veterans — which attempts to preserve Confederate history and stood against the city's efforts to remove the statues — could file a lawsuit by the end of the week, spokesman Lee Millar told the Commercial Appeal in a follow-up story.

Doug Jones, the attorney for the group, told the paper that the statues' removal "bordered on anarchy" and that Greenspace — the nonprofit that bought the parks where the statues sat from the city for $1,000 each — is a "sham" that "ripped off" taxpayers by creating "this silly company to sign this bogus contract, and it's all illegal."

What's the background?

The council's decision came after "months of frustration for city officials fighting against the state's reams of red tape that kept the statues in place despite a wave of public opposition," the Commercial Appeal said.

Democratic Tennessee state Rep. Raumesh Akbari told the paper she can’t predict how the state legislature will respond to the city of Memphis getting around state law.

“I’m hoping that my colleagues in the state house respect the city and the decision it has made,” Arkbari added to the Commercial Appeal. “Honestly, each city needs to be able to do what’s best for themselves.”

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