Changing the name of a street in Montgomery, Alabama, from Jeff Davis Avenue, the name of the president of the confederacy, Jefferson Davis, to the name of civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray may cost the city a fine of $25,000 under state law.
According to a story published in The Guardian, the Montgomery City Council voted to change the road’s name to Fred D. Gray Avenue, honoring the 91-year-old lawyer who represented Rosa Parks and other civil rights advocates that challenged segregation in the southern state.
Changing the name, however, runs afoul of the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act which bans removing or changing Confederate monuments, memorials, street names, and the like, which have stood in place for more than 40 years, or face a state imposed $25,000 fine.
Mayor Steven Reed defended changing the name of the roadway.
“It was important that we show, not only our residents here, but people from afar that this is a new Montgomery,” Reed said to The Associated Press in The Guardian’s report, adding that the name change was his idea. “We want to honor those heroes that have fought to make this union as perfect as it can be.
“When I see a lot of the Confederate symbols that we have in the city, it sends a message that we are focused on the lost cause as opposed to those things that bring us together under the Stars and Stripes.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent the city a letter informing Montgomery that it had violated the law and must pay the fine, or face a suit filed on behalf of the state.
Other cities in the state have removed Confederate symbols, statues, and monuments since the law was enacted, opting to pay the fine.
In October 2020, Huntsville removed a Confederate monument during the night on the grounds of the Madison County Courthouse.
It was one of several monuments, statues, and other items removed around the country in the wake of several racially charged cases nationwide.
The Huntsville statue, dedicated to the unknown Confederate soldiers of the Civil War, was slated to go to a cemetery, and a waiver from the state law was sought before it was removed, according to reporting by Al.com.
Officials at the time said they had not received a reply from the state about the waiver application, but other cities such as Mobile, removed items and paid the fine.
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