Crowds gathering in Health Sciences Park to support the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.
The Tennessee Historical Commission's chairman sent a letter to city officials Thursday saying that it will not vote on the waiver to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from Health Sciences Park in Memphis at its October meeting.
Addressed to the city's attorney Bruce McMullen, the letter, from chairman Reavis Mitchell Jr. announced that the commission cannot vote on the waiver until it approves a new rule-making process.
Mitchell said the proposed rules will be voted on at the commission's Oct. 13 meeting. Because of legal provisions, the commission must pass the new set of rules before voting on any waiver requests.
This means that the earliest the commission will vote on the city's request might be at its next meeting in February 2018.
Mayor Jim Strickland issued a response to the chairman's announcement, saying that the decision was unilateral and made without a vote of the commission.
"We are hopeful that a majority of the commission members themselves support our petition and are equally hopeful that this bureaucratic maneuver is not being used to blunt the momentum we're seeing in our city in support of our petition," Strickland said. "Memphis is as unified on this as anything we've seen...Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative ― we're all behind this."
Strickland said he will personally attend the Oct. 13 meeting to request that the 29 commissioners hear the waiver petition.
The decision to delay the vote on the city’s waiver petition comes as good news to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).
SCV spokesperson Lee Millar released this statement Friday:
"The Sons of Confederate Veterans is pleased with this latest ruling from the Tennessee Historical Commission concerning the proper procedure to examine Memphis’ petition to remove the Forrest Equestrian Statue.
This ruling confirms that there are laws in place regarding these procedures and that the legal process will be followed, as expected.
And we expect the City of Memphis and all its citizens to abide by the laws and the legal process.
The SCV and the Forrest family members continue to strive for the retention of all monuments and statues and the preservation of our American history."
#takeemdown901 founder Tami Sawyer and fellow activist Earle Fisher
However, local activist and creator of the #takeemdown901 effort, Tami Sawyer said in a Facebook
post Thursday that there’s no surprise in the commission’s decision. “They are who we thought they were.”
"The question is," Sawyer continued, “Mayor Strickland, are you ready to unleash the dogs? Are you ready to take this statue down?”
Sawyer adds that if the Confederate statues still stand in Memphis when the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, then “we are the most hypocritical, unjust city in this nation.”