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Monday, December 25, 2017

WATCH: Memphis commissioner who worked with city to get Confederate statues removed explains how they did it

Last week, Memphis, Tennessee shocked the country by appearing to find a loophole that allowed the removal of a statue of Confederate general and suspected KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park. Now, one of the men behind the operation explained just how they did it.

In a press conference outside the now-empty pedestal on which the Forrest statue sat, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, who leads Memphis Greenspace, Inc., told press how he worked with the city attorney’s office to get the statue removed legally.

Memphis Greenspace was incorporated into an organization October, and after a successful pitch to City Attorney Bruce McMullen (and through private donations) bought two parks where the Confederate statues stood for $1,000 apiece. Because they were sold from private to public lands, they were able to work around a Tennessee law that made removal of the statues legally difficult.

“[McMullen] has consistently been an advocate for the removal of these statues legally,” Turner said, “so that’s why we really had to work with the city attorney’s office.”

City employees were “extremely receptive” to their solution, Turner said. Indeed, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday, December 20 to remove the statues after the group purchased the parks, and at 9:01 PM (a reference to Memphis’ 901 area code), the Forrest monument was removed.

The day prior to the press conference, Turner noted, was his father’s 73rd birthday. They celebrated in the Health Sciences Park where the statue was removed — a place where in the past, his father was “intimidated to walk and would dare not sit down.”

Tami Sawyer, an activist and Shelby county commissioner candidate, founded the #takeemdown901 social media movement that helped lead to the removal of the Forrest statue. She told Memphis’ Commercial Appeal that she and her fellow activists who campaigned for the statue’s removal proposed the idea of the parks selling to a nonprofit months prior to the surprising pre-Christmas operation.

“This is your moment,” Reginald Milton, another Shelby county commissioner, told her as the statue came down. “Y’all did this.”

Watch Turner explain how they worked with the Memphis city attorney below.


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