In the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Baltimore officials decided, on their own, to take down certain Confederacy-related statues within the city — a decision that they reportedly lacked the authority to make.
In a letter written by Maryland Historical Trust Director Elizabeth Hughes, the state agency explained to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh that her order to remove the statues was beyond her authority.
“While the Trustees appreciate the difficult circumstances and decisions that appear to have confronted Mayor Pugh at the time she directed the removals of these statues, we believe, on the advice of counsel, that public safety concerns did not relieve the City of its legal obligations…” read the letter, dated Oct. 20.
Hughes further explained that the group believed it had the authority to “compel restoration” of the statues, but would not do so at this time, hoping to work together with the city towards a “mutual resolution.”
On Aug. 14, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution calling for the immediate removal of the Confederate monuments, days after the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, during which white nationalists protested the city’s plan to remove a Robert E. Lee monument from a park in the city, according to WJZ.
The event resulted in violence, as one woman died and several around her were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
It also sparked a nationwide debate regarding Confederate statues and racism, and apparently prompted Baltimore officials to do away with their city’s Confederate monuments.
Following the council’s resolution, Pugh ordered the removal of four city statues — the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway, the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell.
However, a 1984 contract gives the Maryland Historical Trust — not the mayor or any other city official — the final say on changes to the monuments, according to The Baltimore Sun.
In a letter obtained by The Sun, city officials told the trust that they believed the contract didn’t apply because the situation constituted an “emergency.”
The officials cited a warning from the Baltimore Police Department that activists were threatening to tear the monuments down if they weren’t removed, which could have resulted in a Charlottesville-like incident.
In other words, the duly elected officials of Baltimore abdicated their decision-making responsibility and surrendered to mob rule.
The mayor defended her quick action in regard to the monuments.
“There’s enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made,” she said, according to WJZ. “Get it done.”
The Oct. 20 letter written in response clearly shows that the state agency disagreed, but did not announce any intentions to undo the monuments’ deconstruction.
Meanwhile, the monuments have been placed in storage until the city and the trustees can agree on permanent locations.
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