“STORAGE” INCLUDED, BUT FOR HOW LONG?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 8, 2017) — On August 26, The Post & Email reported that it had submitted, under the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA), a request for documents relating to the removal of a dual-figured Civil War monument from Wyman Park Dell in Baltimore on August 15-16, 2017.
The statue of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Robert “Stonewall” Jackson was one of many removed in the wake of a demonstration on August 12 in Charlottesville, VA, where a young woman was killed and 35 others injured. The protest, said to be a “white nationalist” rally, evolved into confrontations between protesters and counter-protesters in which the Charlottesville Police Department was virtually invisible.
Initial rally attendees obtained a permit for the protest to be held at the University of Virginia which was given the moniker “Unite the Right.” The original rally-goers were reportedly concerned over the Charlottesville City Council’s vote to have a monument of Lee removed from the premises of what is now “Emancipation Park.”
On Tuesday evening, the five-member council voted “unanimously” to remove a statue of Jackson from what is now known as “Justice Park.”
According to the AP, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore enjoined the removal of the Lee statue after a lawsuit was filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans based on a 1998 Virginia law which prevents the removal of war memorials. A hearing in the case was conducted on September 1, with a decision expected in “two to three weeks.”
Both Charlottesville statues have been draped with black coverings, reportedly to mourn the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester killed when a man from Ohio, James Alex Fields, allegedly drove his car wildly down a street into throngs of people, then put the vehicle into reverse without intervention from law enforcement.
On August 14, a Confederate war memorial in Durham, NC was removed in an unauthorized manner by a woman who cast a rope around it and others on the ground who pulled it down. Some of those in the assembly were seen kicking and spitting on it, while others made obscene gestures and shouted at it as if it were alive. Deputies from the Durham County Office of the Sheriff looked on from a distance, videoing the events as they unfolded but did not intervene.
Seven people were reportedly initially charged with misdemeanors and felonies, although that number could have risen. The monument had been erected in 1924 as a memorial to the “Boys who wore the Gray.”
One side of the statue contained the inscription, “THIS MEMORIAL / ERECTED BY / THE PEOPLE OF / DURHAM COUNTY. “
The Baltimore monument was removed overnight on August 15 and 16 although planned for by Mayor Catherine Pugh and her predecessor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Following violence in the city in response to the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, Rawlings-Blake organized a commission which determined that the monument should be removed. The question as to whether or not it would be “destroyed” was raised but not directly addressed.
The commission reportedly recommended that the statue be offered to the National Park Service.
In the meantime, Rawlings-Blake had ordered that contextual plaques be placed next to the monument under the heading, “RECONCILING HISTORY” and informing visitors that the statue “was part of a movement to perpetuate the beliefs of white supremacy” and to “falsify history.”
The Post & Email’s PIA request was emailed to Mayor Pugh’s office on August 17 and sought:
*All contractors’ invoices for the removal of Confederate War statues in Wyman Park in the City of Baltimore on August 14, 15, and 16, 2017.
*Documentation on where the statues will be maintained, whether temporarily or permanently, or showing that they have been destroyed.
*If the monuments were destroyed, contractors’ invoices arising from said destruction.
The following day, we received a response from Benjamin A. Bor, Special Assistant Solicitor, Litigation; Baltimore City Department of Law, which stated, in relevant part, “There are no responsive documents at this time because the removal services were an emergency procurement via Section 11(e) of Article VI of the Baltimore City Charter. Additionally, the Mayor’s office does not have any records in its custody and control that are responsive to the balance of your request.”
On August 19, we sent Bor a message concerning an article in The Baltimore Sun which claimed that Pugh had requested contractors’ “estimates” for the removal of “Confederate-era monuments in Baltimore.” In our email, we asked if we could obtain copies of the estimates since invoices were not available.
We did not receive a response, but on Thursday, Bor sent us the following email:
Attached is a record that is responsive to your request, below, that I am sending in case you have not already received it. Redacted from this document is confidential commercial or financial information that is protected from disclosure under Md. Code, General Provisions Article (GP), Section 4-335. See § GP 4-335 (protecting from disclosure trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information).
Nothing in this response is intended to indicate that records sought from City agencies exist or to waive any privileges held by the Mayor and City Council. You may contest this response by filing a complaint in Circuit Court pursuant to GP section 4-362.
Office: (410) 396-3012
Fax: (410) 547-1025
The attached invoice was indicated for “Monument Removal and Storage on August 15-16, 2017.”