House passes Confederate monuments bill

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama lawmakers solidified their commitment to preserving Confederate monuments after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would forbid the alteration or removal of any public historic markers in the state.

The measure drew opposition this session at nearly every stage of the legislative process.

African-American lawmakers have argued that protecting such monuments solidifies a shameful legacy of slavery, while proponents counter that their intention is only to preserve history. Supporters also point out that the bill doesn’t specifically mention Confederate markers.

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The GOP-controlled House passed the bill 72-29 after about three hours of resistance from black Democrats, who railed against the measure.

“Those Confederate memorials, they are offensive. They remind us of a time when African-Americans were treated as chattel property,” said Rep. Merika Coleman, a Birmingham Democrat.

Alexander City Republican Rep. Mark Tuggle stepped in during the debate to tell opponents that historical markers significant to blacks would also be preserved by the bill.

“Just to be clear, this protects all monuments,” he said.

Legislators tacked on a series of last-minute amendments to the measure before it passed, pushing the bill back to the Senate for more debate instead of to the governor’s office for a signature.

A previous version of the bill would have stopped changes from being made to monuments that are more than 20 years old but lawmakers removed the time stipulation entirely.

The measure was approved as places around the South are rethinking the appropriateness of monuments honoring the Confederacy.

Officials in New Orleans on Monday removed a statue that paid homage to whites who tried to remove a biracial post-Civil War government in that city.