Statues commemorating the Confederate figures Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis were swiftly removed after the Memphis City Council approved the private sale of Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park on Wednesday. Within hours of Mayor Jim Strickland signing the sale ordinance, construction crews were dispatched to the parks to relocate the monuments.
“The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum,” Strickland wrote on both Twitter and Facebook. “As I told the Tennessee Historical Commission in October, our community wants to reserve places of reverence for those we honor.”
City officials’ request to remove the statues was originally rejected by the Tennessee Historical Commission in October, according to The Associated Press. However, the sale of the parks to the nonprofit organization Memphis Greenspace for $1,000 each circumvents that decision.
Strickland explained on social media that the council passed legislation in September that would allow the sale of public land to a nonprofit organization for less than the market value. Since the right to sell land is in the council’s charter, the parks and the statues became the private property of Memphis Greenspace on Wednesday night.
Tennessee House Majority Leader Glen Casada and House Republican caucus Chairman Ryan Williams issued a statement Thursday pushing for an investigation into the sale and removal of the controversial statues, The Tennessean reports.
Casada and Williams are questioning whether the city violated sunshine laws by coordinating with the private company on the sale of the property, according to The Tennessean.
“We are governed by the rule of law here in Tennessee and these actions are a clear infringement of this principle and set a dangerous precedence for our state,” the Republicans’ statement said.
Tennessee’s Republican Party did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
In statements posted to social media, Strickland stood by the legality of the statues’ removal, claiming that he has been dedicated to the lawful eradication of the monuments since his election.
“From the beginning, we have followed state law ― and tonight’s action is no different,” Strickland wrote on Wednesday. “The Historical Commission was not the only legal avenue.”
The removal of Confederate statues has become a topic of national debate as communities question whether they want their cities to glorify the country’s ugly history of slavery.
The statues’ defenders argue that one cannot change history by removing a monument. “Fox & Friends” anchor Jillian Mele characterized the removal of the Memphis statues on Thursday as “history being erased in a major American city” while citizens slept.