Activists hold signs with group's three demands to the City
After a group of activists led by Tami Sawyer and leaders of the city's faith community handed a letter asking for the immediate — potentially unlawful— removal of the Confederate statues in Memphis to Mayor Jim Strickland's administration on Wednesday, City officials did not oblige.
Though Sawyer encouraged the City to "remove them now, and get sued later," chief communications officer for the City of Memphis Ursula Madden released a statement saying that the City and the mayor want the statues removed as well, but will do it lawfully.
"We will not break the law," the statement read. "We will not direct city employees to break the law. We will not ask police officers to violate their oaths of office. Mayor Strickland has long supported removing statues and continues to seek a lawful way to do it."
Additionally, the statement implied that anyone who commits the crime of attempting to remove the statues will be arrested.
Sawyer condemned the City's response in a Facebook post, expressing that she thought it was "threatening and condescending."
She says that "the mayor is refusing to engage with grassroots efforts to remove the statues, even though we have offered hours of research-supported, viable options for [the statue's] removal."
The legal process, Sawyer says, will take more time than she and others are willing to wait.
"We do not have three months; we do not have three years to wait in court for these structures to continue to stand in our city," Sawyer said.
She says though the mayor has made plans to file a waiver to the Tennessee Historical Commission for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue, the waiver has not yet been published. As for the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in Heath Sciences Park, the City has filed a waiver, but it will not be heard until October.