Memphis removes Confederate statue ahead of anniversary of MLK assassination

    (Photo: AP)

    On Wednesday night, the city of Memphis got rid of two Confederate statues, including a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

    The first of the statues to be removed was of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forresta slave trader and a founder and “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan, followed by the statue of Davis.

    As police surrounded the scene with lights flashing, a jubilant crowd sang farewell to the statues: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye.”

    The city where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated

    Memphis is fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. With that somber anniversary hanging over their heads, Memphis politicians suddenly lit a fire under their desire to get rid of the reminders of the Confederacy.

    But the problem was the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016. That act prevented the removal of statues on public property without two-thirds of the board of the commission expressing their approval.

    But facing the prospect of thousands of people coming to the city to celebrate MLK and finding Confederate statues there, the city worked around that law.

    The kicker was the fact that statues “on public property” were affected by the law. On Wednesday, then, the city council let the mayor sell the parks to Memphis Greenspace Inc., a private nonprofit set up by Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner and others.

    Hours later, the statues, now on private property, were removed.

    White supremacists aren’t happy about it

    James G. Patterson, commander of the Tennessee Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, took to Facebook to complain about the removal of the statues.

    “This has been a well-organized, behind the scenes plan by the city,” he said in a Facebook post. “They deliberately did this after hours to prevent action on our part. State officials have been contacted and will address this immediately.”

    However, he also told his followers not to demonstrate because of heavy police presence. Memphis police weren’t messing around when it came to security, either, surrounding the parks to keep out troublemakers.