Sons Of Confederacy Sues University Over Statue Removal

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The University of Texas at Austin is facing a lawsuit after it decided to remove three Confederate statues from its campus Aug. 20.

The Sons of the Confederacy argues that the institution violated an agreement with a Confederate veteran who donated land and money to the university, ABC News reported.

University President Greg Fenves explained why he ordered workers to remove the statues, which included one of General Robert E. Lee, another of General Albert Sidney Johnston, and one of Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan.

"Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans," said Fenves, according to ABC. "That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry."

Fenves sent an email to the university community shortly before 11 p.m. Aug. 20, and the statues were removed overnight by workers.

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The decision was made one week after violent clashes at a protest by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in the death of one counter-protester. Fenves alleged that Confederate statues had become associated with such political tendencies and could not remain in place.

Fenves also noted that the statues "run counter to the university's core values," according to KUT.

But the Sons of the Confederacy says George Littlefield, who donated land to the university in 1920, requested that it be used to promote the "Southern perspective of American history."

"The university agreed to communicate political speech in perpetuity," the lawsuit argued. "Now, however, Pres. Fenves has breached the university's promise to communicate minority political speech."

University spokesman J. B. Bird confirmed that the suit was received Aug. 24. He did not comment on it, but stated that the removal of the statues "was handled appropriately," KUT reported.

The decision to relocate the statues to a museum provoked a mixed reaction from politicians.

"Gosh, our universities are supposed to be where we learn about history and not repeat those moments of the past, and there was no discussion here," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, according to The Texas Tribune.

But Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas refrained from criticizing the removal of statues of leading figures in the Confederacy.

"The University of Texas made a decision yesterday about how and whether to display and acknowledge that history," Cruz said. "It's appropriate for each university to make that decision. It was the university's prerogative to make that decision."

In 2015, the Sons of The Confederacy unsuccessfully sued the university when it removed a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Sources: ABC News, KUT, The Texas Tribune / Featured Image: Kenneth C. Zirkel/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Bellerophon5685/Wikimedia Commons, Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

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