By Steve Bittenbender
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A state judge in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday temporarily blocked a move by the city and a local university to take down a longstanding monument to Confederate soldiers.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman issued the temporary injunction after the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others announced their intent to legally block the move by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and University of Louisville President Dr. James Ramsey.
A hearing on whether to permanently grant the injunction has been scheduled for 1030 am local time on Thursday, according to Ed Springston, one of the men who sought the injunction with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Fischer's spokesman Chris Poynter said in a text that the mayor stood by his decision to move the statue to a more appropriate location. On Friday, local leaders announced plans to dismantle the 70-foot monument, clean it and place it in storage until another site could be found.
University spokesman John Karman said in a Monday email that the school would support the city's efforts to move the statue as the case moves through the courts.
Located near the university's main campus, the 121-year-old monument has been a source of controversy at the school. In a Friday statement, Ramsey said the memorial, given to the city by the Kentucky Woman's Monument Association to commemorate Kentuckians who died for the Confederacy, needed a more appropriate location than near “a modern campus that celebrates its diversity.”
A diversity committee at the university was the latest group to target the monument, joining a national push to remove what they consider emblems of slavery that have become a rallying symbol for racism and xenophobia in the United States.
Public symbols of the Confederacy including the Confederate flag have been the center of controversy across the U.S. South after a white gunman allegedly shot dead nine black worshipers at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina in July 2015.
Supporters say they are symbols of the South's history and culture, as well a memorial to the roughly 480,000 Confederate casualties during the Civil War.
Opposition to the removal of the Kentucky statue quickly gathered momentum. Thomas McAdam, the Louisville lawyer representing the organization and other plaintiffs, could not be reached to comment on Monday, but in a Facebook post last week called the city's plan "historical revisionism."
“The destruction of public monuments is a desecration of our honored dead, and an example of liberal fascism in its ugliest form,” he said in the post.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender, Editing by Ben Klayman and Andrew Hay)