New proposal could bring Confederate statues back to Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn ( – A proposed bill called the Tennessee Historic Properties Act could allow the state to take back any monuments or land with historical ties.

If passed it would undo the sale of two Memphis parks with Confederate statues.

Two east Tennessee lawmakers are behind the proposed legislation, Frank Niceley and Matthew Hill.

“If this bill in fact makes it to the floor if in fact this bill makes it out of committee and it does get to the floor it’s going to be a very hot and contentious battle over this bill,” said Democratic Representative John DeBerry of Memphis.

If passed, it would allow the state to use eminent domain and seize properties like parks or monuments with historic ties, and they could use that power retroactively. This could impact parks like the two in Memphis that were once home to Confederate statues.

“One of the things we have to remember about Memphis our population, our demographics and our politics that a lot of times when you go east people don’t give us our proper due and consideration,” said DeBerry.

“This is just the state trying to create teeth to try to stop people from removing statues from parks without the Tennessee Historical Commission giving them approval,” said Memphis attorney Robert Hutton.

The operation to remove statues of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest took place during the night on December 20, immediately after the city of Memphis sold the park land where they were located to a non-profit group.MORE: How the statues were removed

The Sons of Confederate Veterans promptly filed a lawsuit.  They told a judge last month they want to inspect the statues to make sure they’re preserved undamaged and stored properly.Judge: Memphis nonprofit must preserve Confederate Statues

Some have questioned if the proposed legislation is legal.

Hutton says one part of the bill raises some flags.

“This seems to try to place the cost of eminent domain on the city. That’s unusual and I’m not aware of that ever happening before where the state basically passes a law that tries to basically force a local subdivision to pay the cost,” said Hutton.

He added that there is no problem generally with the retroactive piece of the bill.

Van Turner with Memphis Greenspace, who bought the two Memphis parks and removed the statues, released a statement Friday saying they knew there would be challenges along the way.

Local Memphis reached out the lawmakers who proposed the legislation but did not hear back.

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