A group of local military veterans voiced their anger Monday night to the Albertville City Council over an incident that occurred on Veterans Day involving the war memorial in front of the Marshall County Courthouse in Albertville.
Adam Cordell opened the time for public comment by “challenging” the council to pass an ordinance protecting war memorials from “desecration.” Cordell cited last Wednesday’s incident where, during a protest over the Confederate monument and flag at the courthouse, protesters were seen standing on top of and dancing on the war memorial. He made it clear that he and the other veterans there were not talking about the Confederate monument or flag, but specifically about the war memorial, which honors those who fought in WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam War.
“We are here to speak for the dead because they cannot speak for themselves,” Cordell said.
He went on to detail the “appalling” incident and complained about the lack of police presence at the event as well as the apparent inaction of the city council to respond.
“I hope this is not a sign of the City of Albertville and the council has forgotten the sacrifice of those men and women [represented on the memorial] because it seems like you have,” he said to the council. “Every one of you should be ashamed of yourself.”
Cordell told the council that if nothing is done to protect the veteran memorial, “citizens will be forced to protect it themselves.”
A few more veterans spoke after Cordell, echoing his concerns and the call for the council to protect the monument. Though the council typically does not respond to anyone speaking during public comment, council president Nathan Broadhurst did answer a question posed by Cordell about the Albertville Police Department’s training budget, which Cordell deemed inadequate.
“You can ask him [Police Chief Jamie Smith] if you want to,” Broadhurst rejoined. “We provide everything that the police department asks for. If they ask for resources that they need, we give it to them… I feel they’re very capable to handle what situation is there.”
Broadhurst went on to explain how though disrespectful it may be, the law doesn’t prohibit a person from standing on a memorial on public property as long as it is not damaged. He also said a permit is not required to protest as long as no one blocks traffic or uses sound amplification devices.
Coming from a family of veterans, Broadhurst said he understood their feelings over the incident. After further questioning from the audience, he said, “I think it’s disgusting and despicable for somebody to stand on the war memorial… But as a city leader, as a government leader, we have to walk a very fine line where the actions we take have to be legally justified.”
During his closing comments, Broadhurst said the right to protest and free speech was vital as it protects both sides of a given argument to say what the other may disagree with. He then had to fight back tears when he talked about his family and the people standing on the war memorial.
“It’s very sad to me that anybody would feel that that’s OK, that that’s the way to display any kind of viewpoint,” he said.
Broadhurst said the council would investigate every possible legal avenue they could take to protect the monument including contacting state legislators for input.
“I hate you guys [veterans] are feeling what you’re feeling,” Mayor Tracy Honea said. “I think we live in a great community. If there’s a community that’s ever been challenged culturally over the last 25 or 30 years, Albertville, Alabama ranks at the top in the state in my opinion. That doesn’t mean we still don’t have our issues.”
In other business, the council:
• Approved the lease purchase of 40 self containment breathing apparatuses and 80 bottles for the fire department.
• Approved an agreement with GMC for engineering of road improvements.
• Approved an agreement with Skipper Consulting for traffic consulting services.