Last night, Lexington city workers removed the statues of John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan from the Old Courthouse square:
A Tuesday opinion by Attorney General Andy Beshear opened the door for the city to begin the removal of the statues.
The city had previously said that the board of the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission had to approve the removal of the statues. But Beshear’s opinion said the commission does not have jurisdiction.
The city issued a release Tuesday night saying that “Attorney General Andy Beshear has issued an opinion that the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission does not have jurisdiction over the statues.”
“We discovered the city council did not authorize the mayor to give up local authority to the state Military Heritage Commission in 2003,” Mayor Jim Gray said in a statement. “That action wasn’t lawful, and it is void. The Attorney General confirmed our finding this morning. That means our local authority remains intact; this is a local decision, as it should be. This council has unanimously supported moving the statues to the Lexington Cemetery. The cemetery trustees have voiced their conditional approval. That’s what we intend to do.”
The activists at Take Back Cheapside deserve a great deal of credit for this. Mayor Jim Gray has also performed adroitly, deciding to push for the removal of the statues after the violence in Charlottesville, moving the proposal through the Lexington City Council, and now taking advantage of this legal ruling to remove the statues without offering the opportunity for a fuss. Nazis have implied that they might launch a “flash” protest, and while they still might do so removing the focal point of their protest was a good idea.
This is something I’ve been writing about for a while. The situation actually got worse after they renovated the square and moved the Breckinridge statue to a more prominent position along Main Street. But now, for the first time in 130 years, Lexington does not feature prominent memorials to the notion that killing in the defense of the rights of white people to own black people is a noble ideal.