4 charged after statue toppled at Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee High School
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Four suspects have been charged after a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was toppled from its pedestal late Monday evening at the Montgomery high school named for him.
Montgomery police confirmed the suspects are Maya Holly, 28, Jonathan Williams, 34, Jeremy Selmar, 28, and Joe Pernell, 35. Each was identified on the scene as a suspect and arrested following the 9 p.m. incident. They’re charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a felony.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey responded to the charges Tuesday night, saying he has reviewed the warrants and affidavits of those arrested and found they contain legal errors that would make the crimes for which they’ve been charged not prosecutable. When asked about those legal errors, Bailey said the property damage amount is incorrect. He also said he was not consulted on the charges.
Meanwhile, the future remains unclear for the controversial statue. Police officers responded to the school on Ann Street shortly after the incident. The statue was later seen being secured in a pick-up truck that drove away to some bystanders’ cheers.
A Montgomery Public Schools spokesperson confirmed Tuesday the system has the piece and that it is in storage for safekeeping.
MPS says it is working with local authorities on the matter but a statement from the school superintendent was not immediately available regarding any possible date for which Lee’s likeness might be returned to its pedestal.
The connection of Lee’s name and statue on a high school attended by a predominantly black student body have long been sources of frustration for some area residents who have unsuccessfully sought to remove them.
Steven Reed, Montgomery’s first black mayor, was asked Tuesday about the controversy and his thoughts on Lee’s statue coming down.
“Well, listen, I think that there’s an orderly process to voicing any opposition to whether it’s a street name, whether it’s a statue, or whatever it may be, and I think in our community, we have to understand there are rules and laws that we have to abide by,” Reed said.
The mayor said despite whether you agree or disagree with the statue being there, “we don’t want to set that precedent for people who disagree with things to just take them down.”
“And those people who have been charged with that, I guess we’ll have to deal with the district attorney and see where it goes from there,” the mayor added.
According to the school’s website, the Lee statue was created in 1908 and was on display downtown for decades before the high school was built. The statue has set at three locations during its 112 years of existence. Those include its original location at the Madison Terrace/Winona Avenue intersection, the end of Madison Avenue near the corner of Ann Street, and finally on the grounds of the school after its construction in the 1950s.
The statue was pulled down amid growing national controversy over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Though the officer has since been arrested, protests have spread to cities around the country.
Those protests, some of which have turned violent, have also reignited anger at Confederate monuments in the South.
Some cities have reported vandalism of statues. In the case of Birmingham, a monument in a city park that was at the center of a lawsuit challenging a state law that protects the statues, was also removed Monday night.
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