LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's second largest city began moving statutes of two Confederate statues on Tuesday evening after obtaining a legal opinion that a state heritage panel does not have jurisdiction over them.
The Lexington Herald Leader reports that police blocked off the area outside the former courthouse to allow workers to bring crane equipment into place to hoist the statues honoring Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge, a U.S. vice president and Confederate secretary of war.
The statues are being moved into storage while the city works out an agreement to move them to Lexington Cemetery where Breckenridge and Morgan are buried. Private donors have agreed to pay for the relocation and upkeep of the statues there.
The Lexington Fayette-Urban County Council voted in August to remove the statues days after violent protests at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, issued a legal opinion earlier Tuesday that then-Mayor Teresa Isaac did not have prior authorization from the city council in 2003 to submit an application for the statutes to be designated as Kentucky military heritage sites.
"That action wasn't lawful, and it is void," said current Mayor Jim Gray. "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," he said. "That's what we intend to do."
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said after the initial vote that he disagreed with moving the Lexington statues, likening it to what the Islamic State group does "with the destruction of any kind of history or a different culture when they move into a new territory."
"I think it is a very dangerous precedent to pretend that your history is not your history," Bevin said. "That doesn't mean you have to embrace it. It doesn't mean you agree with it or even like it. But to pretend it does not exist, to remove it from the landscape of discussion and the ability to learn from (it) is a very dangerous proposition."
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com