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Judge: Work on St. Louis' Confederate Memorial must stop for at least for 2 weeks

Contractors start to prep the Confederate Memorial for removal on June 19, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Contractors start to prep the Confederate Memorial for removal Monday before the judge's ruling.

St. Louis can’t take down the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park for at least two weeks, a judge ruled Monday.

The Missouri Civil War Museum sued the city last week, arguing it is the rightful owner. And St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled there were enough questions about who owned the statue that work needed to stop. The case is scheduled to go to trial July 6.

The city gave the Confederate Monument Association of St. Louis permission to put the statue in Forest Park in 1914. Last week, the United Daughters of the Confederacy apparently gifted the statue to the museum last week.

“We want to make sure as the owner of the monument, that the monument is safely and correctly dismantled and then stored somewhere,” attorney Jay Kanzler, who represents the museum, said Monday.

Though the ordinance never mentions the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Kanzler said the Association was the fundraising arm for the Daughters.

But city attorney Michael Garvin argued that both the Confederate Monument Association, which helped raise the money for the monument, and the United Daughters had been absent for more than 100 years, and had therefore abandoned any claim to the statue.

“The ordinance says they have to maintain it,” Garvin said. “[The monument] has been defaced a number of times, and I’ve never seen the United Daughters of the Confederacy there to clean it off.”

Kanzler said the museum agreed with the city that Forest Park is the wrong place for it. For two years, the museum has offered to remove the monument from the park and store it at its expense, with an eye toward displaying it at the museum or elsewhere, executive director Mark Trout said. He could not understand why Mayor Lyda Krewson was not jumping at the the offer.

“I’m just shocked. … I hear the public. They want it out of the park, they want it in an appropriate place,” Trout said.

Koran Addo, a spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said she believes the city owns the statue, and rejected the museum’s plan as incomplete.

“The museum had steadfastly refused to allow the city to have any say over how the Memorial would be displayed and in what historical context,” Addo said.

Trout said he was concerned that the city wasn’t doing enough to make sure that the monument isn’t damaged beyond repair. For example, he said, if the city had looked at the historical record, it would have known that the center shaft of the monument was a solid piece of granite, and therefore did not need to remove the cap.

“Our predecessors installed that monument with primitive tools without putting a scratch on it. And now here we are in 2017, we are drilling holes into the side of the monument,” he said of the city’s preparations to take it down.

Addo said drilling holes in order to rig cranes is standard, and that the holes will be repaired when the work is complete.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.