Using ‘the power of the purse,’ the Tennessee House of Representatives passed an amendment by a vote of 56-31 Tuesday to de-fund Memphis’ bicentennial celebration by $250,000 as a consequence to the overnight removal of two Confederate monuments in late 2017.
“If you recall, back in December, Memphis did something that removed historical markers in the city,” Tennessee Republican Rep. Steve McDaniel said from the House floor. “It was the city of Memphis that did this, and it was full knowing it was not the will of the legislature.”
Memphis Mayor and City Council schemed to sell the land containing the parks and statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest on very favorable terms to a nonprofit which then took them down.
As The Tennessee Star reported:
Confederate monuments on what was until recently city property were taken down in Memphis after the sun set on Wednesday with little advance public discussion of the propriety of the actions taken secretively to circumvent state law.
Whether the actions of the Memphis City Council and Mayor Jim Strickland that caused these stealth take downs of Confederate monuments Wednesday legally circumvent state law, or are in fact a brazen violation of state law, is a matter that members of the Tennessee General Assembly are sure to investigate when they convene in Nashville next month.
It is unclear whether Mayor Strickland or Memphis officials sought a legal opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery on their legal right to undertake these actions.
According to a recent Tennessee Star Poll, 64 percent of Tennessee Republican likely primary voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the removal of these monuments, while 26 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the removal of these monuments.
State House Democrats were predictably outraged. The Commercial Appeal reported that state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) called it the most “vile, racist” effort he had seen and said Republicans viewed Forrest “as if he was God.”
State Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said, “This amendment and the explanation is hateful, it is unkind, it is un-Christian and it is unfair. Memphis is a city in this state, and I am sick of people in this House acting like it’s not.”
Unfazed, Republican State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) said that “bad actions” have “bad consequences.”