Lawsuit challenges Louisville's ownership of Confederate monument
In court documents filed Thursday, the groups suing Mayor Greg Fischer say the statue sits on state right-of-way. A hearing is scheduled for May 25.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Backers of keeping a Confederate monument in Old Louisville claim Metro government doesn’t have the legal authority to remove the statue because it sits on state right-of-way.
In court documents filed Thursday, the groups suing Mayor Greg Fischer say they originally thought the city owned the property where the statue stands. On April 29, Fischer and University of Louisville President James Ramsey announced plans to take down the monument near the Belknap Campus.
“It now appears that said Monument is, in fact, located on highway right-of-way, owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” according to the updated complaint submitted in Jefferson Circuit Court.
A group that includes GOP Congressional candidate Everett Corley, the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Pikeville, Ky., and Louisville blogger and activist Ed Springston filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to stop workers from removing the statue. Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman issued a restraining order the same day.
A hearing has been scheduled for May 25.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Ryan Watts said the city and U of L told it about their intent to relocate the statue, but that the state had only a “peripheral role in its removal.” No state approvals were needed because the monument existed before the Cabinet was established, he said.
Metro government hasn’t yet responded to the lawsuit.
The new filing also claims that officials chose to remove the statue as a “direct reaction and response to a threat” from Ricky Jones, professor and chair of U of L’s Pan-African Studies Department.
The lawsuit alleges that Jones threatened to lead a protest on Saturday by blocking traffic on Third Street headed to Churchill Downs for Kentucky Derby Day.
“That’s absolutely untrue,” Jones said by phone Friday afternoon. “I’m not even in the city.”
He called the allegations an “absolute lie.”
The monument was erected in 1895 to honor Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War. But in remarks last month, Fischer said the statue is a nod to slavery and racism and has no place in a “compassionate, forward-looking city.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have repeatedly alleged the city plans to destroy the statue; Metro officials say the monument will be relocated to a site that hasn’t yet been selected.
The lawsuit alleges that Fischer and Metro government failed to follow federal historic preservation law, broke the Kentucky Military Heritage Act and violated city ordinances.
Corley hopes to face off against incumbent U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth in the November general election for Kentucky’s 3rd District seat in the U.S. House. He is running against fellow Republicans Harold Bratcher and Robert L. DeVore Jr. in the May 17 primary.
Corley insisted at a press conference earlier this week that his involvement in the lawsuit isn’t politically motivated.
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