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Sheriff: Lift, electric saw used to damage Confederate monument

Former longtime mayor reacts: ‘If they want to fine us, fine. If they try to arrest us, fine.’
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 3:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2021 at 4:07 PM CDT
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TUSKEGEE, Ala. (WSFA) - A former longtime Tuskegee mayor and current city councilman reacted Wednesday after news that he and another person damaged a Confederate monument that has been in Tuskegee’s city square for more than a century.

Johnny Ford, who had served for multiple terms as the city’s mayor, as well as a state lawmaker before becoming a city councilman, said he was not concerned about the state getting involved or about being arrested.

“We don’t care what the state wishes to do. This is Tuskegee, Alabama,” Ford said. “If the state wants to fine us, fine. If they want to try to arrest us, fine.”

The Macon County Sheriff’s Office has strung police tape around the Confederate monument in Tuskegee after an apparent effort to either damage or remove it from the town square Wednesday afternoon.

Sheriff André Brunson said the incident involved Ford, as well as another person who was not identified by name. He confirmed charges will be filed against both.

“Johnny Ford was up on a lift, him and another guy,“ the sheriff said, pointing at the statue now partially covered in a blue tarp, “and they were cutting the leg of the statue, trying to take the statue down.”

The sheriff said Ford and the other person were using some type of electric saw while standing in a lift with a bucket that had lifted him up next to the statue. Brunson said while he believes the initial cut was made by the other person, he said Ford was on the lift and was involved.

The monument, located in the 100 block of Tuskegee’s Main Street, has long been a source of controversy in the predominantly African American city. It has been the target of vandalism on multiple occasions including in 2020, 2017, 2015.

Students from Tuskegee University tried and failed to remove the statue in the 1960s, but it has continued to stand since 1906. The statue is located in a square that was originally a park built for whites only.

The statue is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The United Daughters of the Confederacy has not yet responded to news of the incident.

Ford said the statue stands for slavery and added that “we cannot afford to, in Tuskegee, Alabama, Rosa Parks’ birthplace, the home of the Tuskegee Airman, the home of Tuskegee University, this historic town, to have a Confederate statue that was built in a park for white people to continue to stand in this day and time.”

Ford said in a public notice that at the District 2 community meeting June 30, citizens at the meeting unanimously passed a motion to remove the monument in 30 days. He added that he plans “to take whatever steps necessary to remove the statue and welcome others to join with us in support of our effort to remove this symbol of slavery from our square.”

It was initially believed that removal of the monument would be a violation of the controversial Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, passed by the state legislature in 2017. A violation is punishable by a one-time fine of $25,000.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has since stated it does not appear this incident would violate the monument law, rather it’s more of a crime in which a person damages property that is not theirs. He said it should be prosecuted as such.

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