Two statues of Confederate Civil War figures have been removed from the grounds of the historic Old Courthouse in downtown Lexington.
As WEKU’S Stu Johnson reports, the removal came yesterday Tuesday evening following a ruling by the state’s attorney general.
The cry "Take Back Cheapside" went up just after midnight just as the statue of John Hunt Morgan was placed on the bed of a truck on Main Street. The likeness of John Breckinridge had been lifted earlier in the evening.
Rebecca Lamey said she stopped by after she got off work to observe a “historical moment.”.
“I think it belongs somewhere where it can be observed as part of the past instead of here in the present where people are living their lives.”
The surprise movement of the two statues was arranged after Attorney General Andy Beshear issued a legal opinion saying the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over the statues.
Lexington officials thought they needed the commission’s backing before any movement could occur. The Breckinridge and Hunt statues sat near Cheapside where slaves were once sold.
Take Back Cheapside Co-Founder DeBraun Thomas said making that space open and inclusive for all people is the ultimate goal. The statues were taken to a storage facility with plans to move them to Lexington Cemetery.
Two statues of Confederate Civil War figures were removed from the grounds of the Old Courthouse in downtown Lexington Tuesday night. Officials have confirmed that the statue of John Hunt Morgan was loaded onto a trailer shortly after midnight. (updated 12:20 am 10/18/17)
The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government began the removal process following an opinion of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear that stated the state’s Military Heritage Commission did not have legal control of the statues.
The attorney general confirmed that Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac did not receive authorization from the Urban County Council when she signed an application to have the statues designated as Kentucky Military Heritage sites in 2003.
Mayor Jim Gray issued the following statement Tuesday night:
“We discovered the City Council did not authorize the Mayor to give up local authority to the state Military Heritage Commission in 2003. That action wasn’t lawful, and it is void. The Attorney General confirmed our finding this morning. That means our local authority remains intact; this is a local decision, as it should be.”
The mayor continued, “This Council has unanimously supported moving the statues to the Lexington Cemetery. The Cemetery Trustees have voiced their conditional approval. That’s what we intend to do.”
The mayor’s office says the statues are being moved to a private storage facility until the agreement to locate them at the Lexington Cemetery is finalized.