BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore officials did not have the right to hastily remove statues that commemorated Confederate figures in August, according to a Maryland Historical Trust letter dated this week.
Written by trust director Elizabeth Hughes, the letter says the trustees “will not concede” that it “lacks the authority … to compel restoration” of the statues, and that “the Trustees believe that the best way forward is for MHT and the City to work cooperatively towards a mutual resolution.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of four city statues overnight August 15 into August 16 —
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.
On August 14, the Baltimore City Council had passed a resolution calling for the immediate deconstruction of the monuments, days after a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that drew white nationalists and counter-protesters turned violent.
“Unite the Right” organizers said one of the reasons behind the event was the city’s plan to remove a Robert E. Lee monument from a park there.
One woman died and several were injured when a car was plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.
Mayor Pugh defended her quick action in regard to the monuments.
“There’s enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made,” she said. “Get it done.”
The dispute with the historical trust is because of a 1984 contract that gives the state body the final say on changes to the monuments, according to a report from our media partners at The Baltimore Sun.
Another letter obtained by The Sun, from city officials to the trust, said they believed that contract didn’t apply because the situation was an emergency.
The trustees disagree, per the Oct. 20 letter.
“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 under the Easement.”
Meanwhile, the monuments are still in storage as the city tries to figure out what to do with them.
A few weeks after they were removed, the city started encouraging the public to submit ideas.
Hughes also writes that the trustees “will need to agree to and approve of the City’s plans for permanent locations” and should “therefore work together towards identifying and securing these locations.”