Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd declared on Thursday that the removal of two Confederate statues by the City of Memphis in December using a questionable ruse to sidestep state law was legal, agreeing on that issue with Democratic gubernatorial candidates Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh.
Boyd’s remarks came at a forum held in Memphis that was co-hosted by the Tennessee Bar Association, The Tennessee Judicial Council, and The Commercial Appeal.
“Our history is our history, and we need to preserve it,” Boyd said.
But Boyd asserted that the City of Memphis did not break the law when they removed a statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the middle-of-the-night last December, referring to the legal loophole used by the Memphis City Council to remove statues from two city parks.
“Memphis followed the law. So they didn’t break the law. So I don’t think it’s now, in retrospect, saying, they didn’t do anything that they weren’t allowed to do,” Boyd said.
You can hear Boyd say that Memphis did not break the law here at the 24:55 mark of this video:
You can hear those same remarks by Boyd in this audio version of the conversation, at the 5:14 mark.
“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,” The Tennessee Star reported of the actions by the Memphis City Council when they occurred in December:
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.
The Commercial Appeal was on the scene as crews arrived to carry out the removal of Confederate monuments, on order of the new owners, who bought the properties for a paltry $1000 each
Despite Boyd’s assertion that the actions by the Memphis City Council were legal, that very issue is currently under consideration in a lawsuit in the Tennessee courts.
Also participating in Thursday’s forum was Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), the other Republican candidate who attended, and the two Democratic candidates for governor, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley).
The forum was not a debate in which all candidates were on stage at the same time.
Instead, each candidate came up separately for a one-on-one session with Commercial Appeal reporter Mark Burnett, who asked a number of specific questions on topics that ranged from the budget for the Judiciary in Tennessee, legal policy such as cash bail bonds, immigration, and the removal of Confederate statues.
In her one-on-one session, Harwell said she was not in favor of removing statues.
“You can’t go back and rewrite history. I respect heritage,” Harwell said.
Both Democratic candidates–Fitzhugh and Dean–were in agreement with Boyd, and said the City of Memphis acted legally in using their ruse of selling the statues in the middle of the night to a quickly created non-profit organized by a Democratic Shelby County Commissioner.