Two confederate statues were removed from parks in Memphis, Tennessee on Wednesday night.
Crews had to work through the night to complete the work of removing the said statues after city officials sold the land to a nonprofit organization.
Crowds gathered outside Health Sciences Park to witness cranes lifting the equestrian statue of Civil War general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from its pedestal. Another statue being removed went on simultaneously about 1.5 miles away at Memphis Park as the statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis was also taken down.
Some onlookers even shouted “bring it down” as the Davis statue was being lifted from its base.
Mayor Jim Strickland said of the statue removal: “History is being made in Memphis tonight. The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum.”
The parks were sold for only a measly, if not merely symbolic, $1,000 each to a non-profit group called Memphis Greenspace. Strickland defended the sale claiming it was necessary to move the statues through legal means after the Tennessee Historical Commission denied the city’s request for a waiver that would have enabled the removal. Strickland also attempted to dismiss the historic commission saying “it was not the only legal avenue.”
The Memphis City Council also hastily voted unanimously on Wednesday afternoon to move the statues as part of the parks’ sale.
There have been heated disputes over the removal of the statues, with those opposing moves to take the symbols down asserting that history must be preserved, and the symbols kept. The other side argued the symbols are racist.
The Forrest statue was placed in 1904 with the passage of Jim Crowera segregation laws. The Davis statue was placed in 1964 during the battle for Civil Rights.
In three months time, crowds are expected to arrive in Memphis for the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s death at the Lorraine Motel.
The city officials have found a clever way to get rid of the statues, however, and maneuver out of the historical commission’s mechanisms.