Forrest monument an ongoing battle

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In an impromptu discussion Tuesday evening, a majority of the Selma City Council expressed their willingness to let the decision of who owns an acre of property within Live Oak Cemetery to be settled in the courts, rather than in the middle of the council chambers.

The acre of property has been thrown into some dispute after it was discovered that, although a city council in April 1877 donated the property to the Confederate Memorial Association, which would later become the United Daughters of the Confederacy, no deed seems to have been ever created or transferred.

The council’s position, which was not an official decision since the discussion was held after the close of Tuesday’s council meeting, now puts into doubt of what might happen at the cemetery come Thursday morning.

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The heated discussion of who owns the property gained fire once the Friends of Forrest and the local UDC chapter began construction weeks ago on an enhanced and larger monument to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Forrest’s history and connection to the Klu Klux Klan, resulted in protestors flocking to the construction site in an attempt to stall construction.

A truce of sorts was reached last week between the parties — and the city of Selma — to halt construction on the site to give the city more time to seek out the deed or for the council to enter the discussion by declaring the area as city property or deem it the property of the UDC.

The agreement called for construction to be halted and protestors to leave the site.

That agreement is set to expire Thursday morning.

Ward 1 city councilman Tommy Atchison said during Tuesday’s discussion it was his opinion that it was not the city’s place to declare who the rightful owners of the property are and suggest the best place for such a decision is in a court of law.

John Wesley Kelley IV, the attorney representing the UDC and Friends of Forrest, said Wednesday evening that he had not discussed a decision of what his clients are prepared to do Thursday.

One such course is to file a request for declaratory judgment in either Federal or Circuit Court, asking a judge to decide who the rightful owners of the property are.

One of the protest organizers, local attorney Faya Rose Toure Sanders, issued a statement Wednesday evening saying that protestors are prepared to go to the site Thursday morning if construction on the monument is resumed.

The Times-Journal, late Wednesday night, did hear unconfirmed reports that another agreement had been reached between the groups, further delaying construction of the monument, and giving the city and the groups more time to come to a resolution outside of the courts.

The Selma City Council also announced Wednesday that they had scheduled a special work session for Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. — two hours before the regular 5 p.m. meeting — to hear as many as 19 citizen requests.

Tuesday night, council president Cecil Williamson reported 14 of those approved requests to speak dealt with the monument construction.