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Removal of Confederate statues legal, judge rules

A judge has ruled the removal of three Confederate statues from public parks in Memphis is legal.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle in Nashville ruled Wednesday that the relocation of statues of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Capt. J. Harvey Mathes from two city parks Dec. 20 didn’t violate state law.

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act limits the removal or changing of historical memorials on public property. City leaders used a legal loophole by selling the parks for $1,000 to Greenspace, a nonprofit that swiftly removed the monuments.

The judge ruled the statues weren’t covered by the act because they were on private property when removed.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has called the removal of the statues unauthorized. It didn’t immediately respond to email seeking comment.

Lyle’s ruling includes a “stay” preventing the defendants in the suit brought by Camp 215 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans from “selling, transferring, conveying, assigning or relocating” the statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, which was removed from Health Sciences Park, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Capt. J. Harvey Mathes, which were moved from Memphis Park.

The defendants are Greenspace and the City of Memphis.

The stay essentially gives the Sons of Confederate Veterans time to appeal the ruling, but the group must put up a $5,000 bond by May 18, 2018 to secure the stay.

(This story includes reporting by the TSD Newsroom.)

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