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Confederate monument could be put in storage while county weighs relocation options

Decatur slideshow

Confederate monument could be put in storage while county weighs relocation options

An inscription on the Confederate monument in Decatur. Photo by Erik Voss

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 may move a controversial Confederate monument in the Decatur Square into storage while officials look for a place to relocate it.

It may ultimately be moved outside of the county.

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Hate Free Decatur, a group which has been working for months to have the monument removed, said commissioners discussed removing the monument during a recent Planning, Economic Development, and Community Services Committee meeting.

In recent months, both the DeKalb County Commission and the Decatur City Commission have approved resolutions to remove the monument.

In October, the County Commission adopted a resolution calling for the monument’s removal and also directing the county’s attorney to find out who actually owns it.

The County Commission’s action followed a similar resolution approved unanimously by the Decatur City Commission in September.

State law currently prohibits the removal of these monuments, but the county’s attorney believes it can be moved as long as it isn’t obscured.

Following the county attorney’s determination that the county has the power to remove the publicly owned monument as long as it remains on visible display, Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson introduced a second resolution to remove the monument.

But there may be a case for moving the monument into storage before a location is selected, Hate Free Decatur said.  The group said Johnson doesn’t want the process to drag on, which was also confirmed by Johnson’s office in a phone interview with Decaturish.

“The resolution will include a 30 day window of time to solicit proposals from the public for removal,” Hate Free Decatur said. “This could be to anywhere. It does not have to be relocated in DeKalb County. The county attorney was present at the meeting and said a contract will be drawn up that will include stipulations like the panels to contextualize and tell the true story. A panel of historians is currently meeting on this and resident input will also be solicited. The monument could go to a third party as long as the stipulations are agreed to. If it is still unclear where to place the monument after 30 days, it could be put in storage because the county is doing its due diligence to comply with the state law.”

The resolution also asks the state Legislature to change state law to give communities more flexibility in dealing with these monuments and memorials.

It’s unclear if there is another suitable location in the county for the monument. One obvious choice was the Decatur Cemetery, but city officials have ruled out that idea.

Activists demanded the monument’s removal after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. held in August resulted in the deaths of three people. Opponents of the monument held a rally and a discussion in the city’s downtown to support removing it. The monument has also been defaced several times since the debate began.

These activists are planning to show up in force at the Jan. 23 meeting.

The monument is located by the old DeKalb County courthouse and was constructed in 1908. It is widely seen as a symbol of the Jim Crow era South.

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