Monument fight ends with split vote

Published 1:03 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Selma City Council effectively ended a suit with KTK Mining Tuesday when it voted, 5-4, to convey a one-acre tract of land in Old Live Oak Cemetery to Chapter 53 of the United Daughters of Confederacy.

Before council members had the opportunity to vote, more than a dozen Selma residents began singing “We Shall Overcome” and held up red and white signs that likened the council’s decision to the Ku Klux Klan. Police then escorted the residents out and they continued to express their opposition, by singing and yelling. The protesters continued singing and banging on the council chamber doors after being escorted out.

At one point, a protester snuck behind the city council’s desk, stood behind the council and yelled into the audience.

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Once the protesters were outside the room, council members voted 5-4 in favor of the settlement. No council member changed his or her vote from a previous vote on the matter.

Voting in favor were: Ward 1 councilman Cecil Williamson, Ward 2 Councilwoman Susan Keith, Ward 3 Councilman Greg Bjelke, Ward 6 Councilman B.L. Tucker and Council President Corey Bowie. Voting against were: Ward 4 Councilwoman Angela Benjamin, Ward 5 Councilman Sam Randolph, Ward 7 Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw and Ward 8 Councilman Michael Johnson.

Crenshaw said by giving away the land, the council is setting a dangerous precedent.

“You have been used,” she said. “You are giving away the legacy of our children. How did we all of a sudden end up giving away a piece of city property?”

After the vote, the noise from outside of the council chambers grew so loud council members requested 10-minute break to allow the protesters to leave.

The vote is an official end to a settlement over a monument to confederate general and former Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. The suit began when the city council voted to revoke a building permit for KTK mining in 2012 after questions were raised about ownership of the property.

A U.S. District judge ruled the council violated KTK’s due process rights by revoking the permit without holding a public hearing. Shortly after the ruling, the city council agreed to a settlement in a closed-to-the-public conference.

The settlement included paying $100,000 to KTK Mining and giving the one-acre tract of land, called Confederate Circle, to the UDC. As a part of the settlement, the monument will remain in its current location and not be relocated to a pedestal that would have raised its height.