The administration of the Tennessee Historical Commission has cited a new set of rules governing waiver applications as the basis for why the state board cannot grant the City of Memphis an Oct 13 hearing on a waiver request to move the statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park.
The opinion was conveyed in a letter addressed to Memphis City Attorney Bruce McMullen and set up the possibility that the City of Memphis would not get a waiver hearing until February 2018.
In a written statement, Strickland said the commission’s administration had moved unilaterally to delay the city’s request for months.
“(This) opinion for delay has been made without a vote of the commission,” Strickland said. “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.”
Citing a unified front that includes Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr., the Memphis City Council, the Shelby County Commission, the business community, 77 diverse members of the clergy and support across political spectrums, Strickland said he still plans to attend the Oct. 13 to “make a personal request of the 29 commissioners for them to hear our waiver petition.”
City Council Attorney Alan Wade has said it would “be easier to have someone executed by lethal injection than it would be getting a waiver from the THC.”
Wade drafted a resolution that would declare the statues of confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederate States of America) public nuisances. The ordinance would allow the statues to be removed without state permission – or at least be covered up. It undergoes final reading at next Tuesday’s Memphis City Council meeting.
Activist Tami Sawyer with #TakeEmDown901, a group aiming to have all Confederate monuments taken down city wide, said the group was prepared for just such a move as made by the commission’s administration.
“I was not surprised at the outcome as the commission work was designed to protect Confederate statues,” Sawyer said in a prepared statement. “Through #takeemdown901, we have called for immediate removal of Statues from Memphis and have been ignored and blocked by our mayor. The statement sent yesterday does not acknowledge the 5,000 signatures delivered in support of removal nor the work of #takeemdown901. …(We) will move forward with our work and plans…” as we were prepared for this decision.
As for the statue of Jefferson Davis, which sits in Fourth Bluff Park, a waiver request has yet to be filed by the city.