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Monuments bill killed; lawmaker calls colleagues racist

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An Alabama legislative committee on Wednesday voted down a proposal giving counties and municipalities more flexibility in removing historical monuments, including Confederate statues. Afterward, the Democratic sponsor of the bill accused Republicans who voted against it as being racist.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, sponsored the bill that would have amended the 2017 Monument Preservation Act. The usually outspoken lawmaker did not mince words in assigning blame to her House colleagues for the failure of her bill.

“Many of those individuals who voted against this bill are members of the Republican Party, they are ‘Trumplicans’, and they have their beliefs because they are in power and they actually exude white supremacy here in the state of Alabama, especially in the House of Representatives so it doesn’t surprise me that they voted against the bill,” Givan told reporters.

The bill failed on a 5-4 vote.

Givan specifically accused committee member Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, of saying racist remarks to other House members. Givan gave no evidence of these remarks.

Holmes, speaking to reporters, denied ever saying any racist remarks.

“There is no proof of that,” Holmes said. “That’s just false.”

Holmes said he voted against the bill because he is concerned about preserving history and does not think monuments should be removed from their original placement.

“The original idea was to not only honor a person or an event but a place,” Holmes said. “…It’s just not fair to move them from their original intent.”

The 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act prohibits relocating, removing, altering or renaming public buildings, streets and memorials that have been standing for more than 40 years. The legislation doesn’t specifically mention Confederate monuments, but it was enacted as some Southern states and cities began removing monuments and emblems of the Confederacy.

Breaking the law can lead to a one-time $25,000 fine. Several municipalities have chosen to remove Confederate monuments in the last year, despite the law and fines.

Givan proposed allowing cities to remove monuments up to 50 years old and any monument older would go through a waiver process that would allow a state committee to make the decision on removing or relocating it.

Givan worked with the Alabama Department of Archives who supported the changes.

Holmes has introduced his own bill to make changes to the monument preservation act, House Bill 242, which would increase penalties to those who violate the act. 

Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, whose father, Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the original 2017 legislation, voted against the Givan’s bill on Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate that we have come to a point where anyone who disagrees is labeled as racist,” Allen told ADN. “I do not believe in erasing history. I believe it is important to remember and learn from our history.”

Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, who chairs the judiciary committee was the only Republican on the committee to vote for Givan’s bill.

Hill told ADN that he supports the bill because he believes it still protects historical monuments and would allow for more local control.

“Under no circumstances do I want any of these monuments destroyed,” Hill said. “I think they are a part of our history and I want them to be where people can see them, and learn from them and experience them just like I do with any other works of that nature.”

Reps. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley; Dickie Drake, R-Leeds; Allen Farley, R-McCalla; and Rep. Ben Robbins, R-Sylacauga, also voted against the bill.

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