The city’s two Confederate statues were removed late Wednesday after the city sold the two Downtown parks in which they sat to a private entity.
Just hours before the statues came down, Mayor Jim Strickland tweeted that the sale of the parks to the non-profit Memphis Greenspace was complete.
Moments ago, I signed the ordinance that completed our sale of the parks. pic.twitter.com/LZH00Pa6cv— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) December 21, 2017
Strickland said the Memphis City Council’s unanimous vote to remove the Confederate statues Wednesday evening was the final step that allowed the city to sell the parks.
The statues were able to be removed without violating state law, Strickland said because the law allows cities to sell land to a private entity and for private entities to remove items from its land.
Not even an hour after the vote, Memphis Police Officers were deployed to Memphis and Health Sciences Parks. Crime scene tape and more than 30 police cars bordered Health Sciences Park by 6:00 p.m.
Activists who have long supported removing the statues lined the yellow crime tape looking on in anticipation as chains and ropes were wrapped around the Forrest equestrian statue in preparation for its removal.
Finally, nearly three hours into the operation, Forrest was lifted from the cement block he sat on for over a century and placed on a truck to be stored in an undisclosed location.
Cheers and chants erupted from the crowd.
A little over an hour later, crews headed to the Jefferson Davis statue to repeat the process and just before 11:00 p.m, Davis was off of his base and into a truck as well.
Here’s a portion of what Mayor Strickland said of Wednesday’s event:
“The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum. As I told the Tennessee Historical Commission in October, our community wants to reserve places of reverence for those we honor.
Though the spotlight has been bright on this for a few months now, it’s worth remembering that this is another step of a years-long journey of which many Memphians have been a part....So I want you to hear me loud and clear: Though some of our city’s past is painful, we are all in charge of our city’s future. Black and white, young and old — every single one of us.
That’s the symbolism for which I want this day to be remembered.”
Responding to Wednesday’s events, Republican lawmakers in Nashville released a statement Thursday saying that the city’s actions violated the intent of the law.
"We are governed by the rule of law here in Tennessee and these actions are a clear infringement of this principle and set a dangerous precedence for our state," the statement by House Majority Leader Glen Casada and House Republican caucus chairman Ryan Williams said. “We look forward to beginning this investigation and addressing this important constitutional issue as we prepare for the 2018 legislative session in Nashville."