CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The American Heritage Association says they are filing a lawsuit against the City of Charleston, Mayor John Tecklenburg and Attorney General Alan Wilson.
In an affidavit filed with the Ninth Judicial Circuit ahead of the lawsuit, the AHA says the city violated the state’s Heritage Act when a Robert E. Lee memorial historical marker was removed from downtown Charleston last summer.
“The same people who want to remove Robert E. Lee are the same people who want to remove George Washington and it’s because they look at history through a pinhole and try to construct a narrative rather than taking a panoramic view that American history deserves,” AHA President Brett Barry said.
Wilson, who also threatened the city with legal action in February, is named in the affidavit for not taking action. The AHA says they made the attorney general aware of the situation in August, received a response in September, but have not seen any results.
Wilson’s office confirmed they told the city to restore the memorial but did not give the city a deadline to have the work done.
“At this time, the only remedy was to hire a lawyer to seek a writ of mandamus – requiring the law to be upheld,” the affidavit reads.
The Lee marker was located on property owned by the Charleston County School District.
The city says a request to remove the Lee marker came from the Charleston School of Math and Science on July 21, 2020.
City officials say the city’s legal department was consulted before making the decision as they were “mindful of the state’s Heritage Act.”
Leaders with the city say the legal department concluded the removal of the marker would be allowed under the Heritage Act.
The AHA is also accusing the city of renaming Memminger Auditorium to Festival Hall in “direct violation of the Heritage Act.”
The city says they are not responsible for Memminger. City documents show the building is also owned by the Charleston County School District, leased by the city and given to the organizers of the Spoleto Festival to operate.
The city says since they don’t own the building, they do not have the authority to change the name and are not responsible for the name change.
It’s unclear who is responsible for the name change. Neither Spoleto nor CCSD were available for comment, and neither are expected to be named in the initial lawsuit filing.
AHA president Brett Barry says they expect the lawsuit to be filed by the end of the day. He says it doesn’t matter if it was the city or the school district responsible for the Memminger name change; they still have time to adjust the lawsuit as needed.
Either way, Barry says they want the memorial restored, and the name change reverted.
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