Newswire: ‘Enough’: Tuskegee Councilman Johnny Ford takes saw to Confederate monument in town square

Johnny Ford standing by Confederate statue

By: Melissa Brown and Kirsten Fiscus, Montgomery Advertiser

Before Johnny Ford drove into downtown Tuskegee and climbed into an electronic lift bucket with a saw on Wednesday, he prayed. When the saw touched the concrete ankle of the Confederate soldier statue perched over the town square, he remembered.  Ford remembered his childhood friend, Sammy Younge, a Black Navy veteran and civil rights worker gunned down in 1966 after asking to use a whites-only bathroom. Ford remembered Tuskegee University students streaming into town streets when Younge’s accused killer was acquitted, attaching chains and ropes to the towering monument to the Confederacy in a failed effort to pull it from its pedestal.  “I pledged then to remove the statue,” Ford said. On Wednesday July 7, 2021, Ford attempted to fulfill his pledge to remove the “painful” Confederate memorial from the heart of his hometown. In the early afternoon, Ford and another, unidentified person began sawing at the leg of the downtown statue.  “I was doing it for Sammy Younge. And the students who tried to pull the statue down,” Ford said. ” … The message has been sent. Everybody has just been waiting on someone to do it. It’s my council district. It’s my responsibility to do it. The people elected me, in this district. This is the first time the county and city government have taken a position to see it removed. Of course, they haven’t been able to do it because of the legal [implications]. They’re afraid of the threats from the Legislature and the attorney general. But I’m not afraid of the governor and the attorney general.” Ford said the two stopped sawing at the request of Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson, who got wind of the attempt Wednesday afternoon and came to the square.  “Looks like he had a chop saw or something. I told him he wasn’t going to destroy the statue, not knowing he’d already chopped through one ankle,” Brunson said. “… He said he was doing it for whatever reason, and I told him he’s not going to destroy it. He was talking about what it stands for, and I told him I’m not going to allow you to commit a crime in front of me.” Ford said he moved to physically remove the statue from its platform, not damage it, after his council district constituents voted in a public meeting last week to take action. Brunson said Ford and others could face multiple charges, including destruction of property. Ford could also face civil penalties under Alabama’s Monument Preservation Act, which prohibits a local government from legally removing a monument 40 years old or older. Cities that do so face fines up to $25,000.  “I welcome that. Sometimes you have to get into good trouble in order to bring about change,” Ford said, referencing a familiar refrain from the late civil rights leader John Lewis. “During the ’60s, we were fighting for voting rights and we went to jail. We did what we had to do. This issue is very, very serious with me. This statue represents slavery. It stands for the Confederacy, whose fight was to keep slavery. My forefathers were enslaved. I take that very, very seriously.” In a telephone interview with the Greene County Democrat, Ford said, “ The Confederate statue is now on its last leg, we hope it will soon b e removed since the City Council and County Commission have voted that it be moved from the Tuskegee Town Square.”