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DeKalb County leaders take no action on request to remove monument

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DeKalb County leaders take no action on request to remove monument

The monument in downtown Decatur. Photo provided to Decaturish
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The monument in downtown Decatur. Photo provided to Decaturish

This story has been updated. 

Activists looking to DeKalb County to remove a Confederate monument from the Decatur Square didn’t get any signs during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting that the county is taking their request seriously.

petition with more than 2,000 signatures is asking the county to remove the monument, constructed in front of the old courthouse in 1908. The future of the monument has been debated since a recent violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va that resulted in the deaths of three people. The monument is in the city of Decatur but is owned by the county.

Supporters of the keeping the monument in place have started their own petition and gathered more than 1,000 signatures. 

None of the monument’s supporters spoke during the DeKalb County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

There were several people who spoke against the monument during public comments at the county commission meeting. Unlike the Decatur City Commission, the county puts a firm time limit on public comments and comments did not go on as long as they did at the Decatur City Commission meeting Monday night. The county is ultimately in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking any action to remove the monument, which includes asking the legislative delegation to change the state law that prohibits their removal.

Only two commissioners acknowledged the petition at the end of the meeting and only one – Mereda Davis Johnson – explicitly called for the monument’s removal. The commission took no action on her request.

“I am with you and let’s take down the monument,” she said.

Commissioner Kathie Gannon, the presiding officer, also acknowledged the comments against the monument, but said the monument provides an opportunity for discussion and did specifically not call for its removal.

“I very much appreciate the motion and the start of people coming together to talk about our history and our relationships with each other,” Gannon said. “Right now we’re talking about the monument but I’m hopeful we can help move this discussion into doing more.”

Gannon praised the city of Decatur’s Better Together board, which holds ongoing discussions about diversity in the city.

During Monday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Patti Garrett and Commissioner Tony Powers said they’d represent the city in conversations with the county and state officials about the monument’s future. It’s unclear what the next steps for removing the monument might be or if there’s any effort among elected officials to remove it or change state law to allow for its removal.

Editor’s note: This story was reported by viewing a live video stream of the Aug. 22 County Commission meeting. 

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