LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A judge cleared the way Wednesday for the removal of a 120-year-old monument to Confederate soldiers that sits near the University of Louisville.
A group of residents and the Sons of Confederate Veterans opposed removing the 1895 stone obelisk and won a temporary restraining order a few days after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced last month that it would be removed.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman listened on Wednesday to several hours of testimony from the monument's supporters, who argued that the city does not own it and that it could be damaged or crumble if it is removed.
Burkman lifted the temporary restraining order that barred the city from removing the monument. She concluded at the end of the hearing that the only piece of evidence that pointed to the ownership of the statue was a 1954 document in which the city granted a right of way to the state for maintenance of the adjacent roadways.
"The only proof the court has today of ownership of this monument is that it belongs to the city," Burkman said at the hearing's end. She also denied a motion for a temporary injunction that would have blocked the removal.
Burkman asked that the city not take any action until she issues a written ruling at a later date.
The hearing included testimony from former congressional candidate Everett Corley and monument experts who said they feared the monument would be damaged when it is taken down.
Corley testified that he is a descendant of a Kentucky soldier who fought in the Civil war and as a former University of Louisville student, the monument was part of his college experience.
"This monument could have been here for the next 200 years and no harm would have been done to anyone," said Corley, who finished second in the recent Republican primary for Louisville's 3rd District congressional seat.
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell said the complaint filed by the monument's supporters was "false and misleading" because it failed to back up its claims that it had historical protections.
"They failed you, they misled you and it was all lies," O'Connell told Burkman during a closing statement to the more-than-four-hour hearing.
Mayor Fischer and University of Louisville President James Ramsey have pledged to relocate the monument to "an appropriate historical venue in the near future." Until then, it would be put in storage.
The statue was gifted to the city by the Kentucky Woman's Monument Association in 1895, according to a release from the University of Louisville. It includes three bronze statues of Confederate soldiers and an inscription that says it is a "tribute to the rank and file of the armies of the South."