Madison County Commission hears public’s concerns over Confederate monument at courthouse

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. --  The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 prevents local governments from removing any monument that's been on public property for 40 years or more. Still, some are calling for the removal of the Confederate memorial outside the Madison County Courthouse, erected in 1905, while others are supporting it.

Samantha Chesler said she's lived in Madison County her entire life, and she's proud of its accomplishments.

"To me it's just so important that Madison County stays a leader, we keep moving forward in our history," she said.

And she would like to see the Madison County Commission continue to lead by removing the Confederate monument from the courthouse. Chesler said she minored in history, and she understands the significance of the Civil War.

"I don't want any part of history destroyed, but I do think having a monument that was built at the height of Jim Crow on our courthouse property is not the history we want to embrace," she explained.

She and others are not asking for the monument to be destroyed, they just want it relocated. Danielle Knight hopes speaking to the commission sparks an important conversation.

"I would like to see that they're at least talking about some different options of how to deal with this, how to move it," she said.

Madison County Commissioner Phil Vandiver said he was impressed with the amount of people who stood up to speak today, either for or against the monument.

"This is a democracy, and this is the thing the Madison County Commission has always tried to do, is have our citizens come speak to their elected officials," he said.

There's been some confusion over who exactly has the power to move the monument.

"I don't even know if this commission has the authority to do that, so we'd have to make a decision about that, where it goes, what happens, and go from there," said Commissioner Vandiver.

So the statue controversy stays in place, but who can move it is still unclear. Some options brought to the attention of the commissioners today is moving the monument to a museum, a memorial like Maple Hill Cemetery, or even holding a county-wide vote and leaving it up to the people.

Local governments that violate the Memorial Preservation Act are subject to penalty.