Statues of Fraud : Confederate Monuments as Public Nuisances

Emily T. Behzadi, California Western School of Law


The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other African
Americans have ignited a new wave of social activism throughout the United
States. Notwithstanding the existence of one of the most infectious diseases of the twenty-first century, racist and unrestrained police violence continues to plague American society. The unprecedented national uprisings resulting from the brutal killings of African Americans have positioned the United States on the precipice of immense social and political change. This period is marked by an amalgamation of social, political, and cultural influences. However, the continued exhibition of Confederate monuments stymies the ability to remedy the brutal injustices resulting from this country’s racist and oppressive past. In a time where public health and safety are at the forefront of American news and politics, the ongoing Confederate monument controversy and the inability of governments to uniformly decide the fate of these divisive objects undoubtedly impacts the public’s health and safety. Various localities have declared Confederate monuments as “public nuisances,” and despite legal challenges, have been successful in the removal of these offensive objects. Within this context, this Article proposes that the doctrine of public nuisance may be utilized as a vehicle for the removal of Confederate monuments in public spaces. This Article further argues that the memorialization of the Confederacy, slavery, and the subordination of Black Americans through Confederate monuments continues the significant “cultural trauma” sustained by Black Americans for centuries. Ultimately, the removal of Confederate monuments serves to erase the false narrative propagated by Lost Cause enthusiasts, and most notably, to begin to cure the deep fissures of systemic racism and oppression in the United States.