Committee approves resolution aimed at removing Decatur’s Confederate monument

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 10, 2017

After the Stand With Charlottesville candlelight vigil on August 13. 2017, in Decatur, Ga., attendees gather to discuss the controversial “Lost Cause” monument in Decatur Square.

DeKalb County Commissioners held a Planning, Economic Development, and Community Services Committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon and unanimously signed off on moving forward with a resolution targeting Decatur’s Confederate monument.

The resolution, being pushed by DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, calls for the monument’s removal and also directs the county’s attorney to find out who actually owns it. The monument is located in front of the old courthouse in the Decatur Square. The city of Decatur maintains the county owns it. County officials have been unable to find any commission minutes that show the county formally accepted the monument.

“There is some question as to ownership of the land and the Monument and staff is directed to try and resolve the various outstanding questions in the next 30 days,” a note attached to the resolution says.

The resolution also directs the county attorney to determine if the monument can legally be removed and asks that county officials find an appropriate location to move the monument.

At the committee meeting, Commissioner Jeff Rader suggested adding language concerning contextualizing the monument and to make it clear the commission isn’t interested in destroying it.

“I am suggesting that our presiding officer impanel a committee of historians … to provide an objective, interpretive context for the monument using primary source documents,” he said.

Commissioner Johnson had no objections. According to Hate Free Decatur, the group which has been actively pushing for the monument’s removal along with the Beacon Hill branch of the NAACP, the DeKalb County Commission will likely consider the resolution at its Oct. 24 meeting.

Activists have demanded the monument’s removal in the wake of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that resulted in the deaths of three people. These groups held a rally and a discussion in the city’s downtown to support removing it. The monument has also been defaced three times since the debate began.

The groups and Commissioner Johnson invited a panel of historians to discuss the monument Monday evening, Oct. 9. The monument was erected in 1908. It is widely seen as a symbol of the Jim Crow era South, a not-so subtle message to black residents who would question the status quo.

DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said during the meeting that he hoped the monument discussion would spark a deeper dialogue about equality.

“This is an issue that has to be deeper than removing the monument if we want to get to an equal and equitable society,” he said. “As a person who has experienced racism and discrimination, this removing of the monument is just a step. We need to go deeper in our dialogue about race. We need to talk openly. We can’t shut off forces who may have a different opinion, but we have to get everybody to the table.”

Editor’s note: Portions of this story were reported by watching a live video stream of the committee meeting. 

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