Anna Beahm, AL.com, May 31, 2020
Protesters on Sunday evening began trying to tear down a Confederate monument in a downtown Birmingham park.
The monument withstood attempts to bring it down before Birmingham’s mayor asked the crowd to leave before police were to step in. The Thomas Jefferson statue at the Jefferson County Courthouse, adjacent to the park, was damaged about 10 p.m. after someone set a fire at its base and several windows in the courthouse were broken by rocks thrown in the demonstration.
The monument in Linn Park has been the subject of a legal fight between Birmingham and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office over historical monuments. The City of Birmingham has wanted it removed, but has lost a legal fight with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.
It wasn’t the first legal fight over the monument. Save Our South filed a lawsuit a month after the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved a resolution in July 2015 to remove the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors monument.
At first protesters on Sunday took down a plywood barricade at the base of the monument, placed there by the city before the legal fight. Then demonstrators began to chip away at the monument with anything they could find. Ropes were then placed around the monument in an attempt to bring the large monument down. Demonstrators also spray painted the base and chipped away at the inscriptions at the bottom. Chains or ropes were also placed around the monument and people were trying to pull the monolith down. A pickup truck also was being used to help pull. The rope broke on the first attempt.
Birmingham police officers stood by watching the protesters and did not attempt to stop them. Officers later pulled back further from the scene. Protesters also turned their attention – and were successful – in taking down a metal statue of the park’s namesake. Protesters then chanted “one more to go,” referring to the main granite Confederate monument.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin appeared at the park, and using a bullhorn next to Johnson, asked the crowd to stand down. The crowd was angered at the request. “I understand the frustration and the anger that you have,” he said. “Allow me to finish the job for you.”
The mayor didn’t explain how he would finish the job.