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Thomas Jefferson statue will be moved following calls to remove racist symbols from public spaces

Crime and public safety Decatur

Thomas Jefferson statue will be moved following calls to remove racist symbols from public spaces

FILE PHOTO: A person who said they were born and raised in Decatur sits next to the statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the old courthouse during a peaceful demonstration sponsored by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights June 7. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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This story has been updated. 

Decatur, GA — The organizer behind a June 17 rally on the Decatur Square says a statue of Thomas Jefferson in downtown Decatur will be removed.

The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights organized the protest, calling for the immediate removal of the Confederate monument in the square.

In addition to the scheduled removal of the obelisk monument, Beacon Hill Co-Chair Mawuli Davis said that the statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of Decatur’s Old Courthouse will also be removed.

Decatur Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers confirmed the statue will be removed from its position in front of the old county courthouse.

“The only thing I can tell you is it belongs to a private individual and he has requested it be moved,” Powers said. “It doesn’t belong to the county; it belongs to a private individual. He’s requested it be moved and we’re going to oblige.”

City Manager Andrea Arnold said the statue would be removed “to protect it from damage.”

Jefferson, one of the country’s founding fathers, has received renewed scrutiny in recent years. He owned more than 600 slaves and raped one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, who gave birth to six of his children. Because Jefferson was Hemings’ master, the relationship would not have been consensual.

The cannon from the Indian War of 1836 that Andre Williams is walking past is one of the monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse that were demanded to be removed during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square ON June 17. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Speakers at the June 17 rally also called for the removal of the cannon in front of the Old Courthouse that commemorates the “Indian War,” calling it a monument of hatred to Indigenous people. 

The protest included speakers from the Decatur community, including local business owners, clergy members, and elected officials. About 75 to 100 people gathered in the Square. No counter-protesters appeared to be in attendance.

A judge recently ordered the removal of the Confederate monument in the Square. During Wednesday’s protest it was plastered with signs commemorating lives lost to white supremacy and calling for its removal, as it has been since the protests began. Two signs on the front of the monument read “I will be taken down by June 26th, hopefully sooner!” Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger ordered the monument to be removed by that date.

Wednesday’s speeches were emotionally charged, as activists and community members have still had to weather more painful incidents even as the movement continues across the country. The killing of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police officers, six people of color found hanged in several different states, a 10-year-old Black boy hiding behind a car when a cop car drove down his street, and the murder of 19-year-old activist Oluwatoyin Salau have all taken place within the last weeks. 

Qri Montague, a radio personality who has recently become an outspoken activist as a victim of police brutality, delivered an emotional speech.

“While you hold these signs and while you gather for this monument, there are people out there who are treated like animals … I cannot express enough that your work does not end here,” Montague said. “It does not end with this monument. It starts with this monument.”

Georgia Rep. Derrick Jackson, who represents District 64, talked about his three daughters who are 26, 22, and 16. “Not everyone has to give their child ‘the talk’ after you teach them how to drive,” Rep. Jackson said. “So there’s no room for me to do my prepared speech … This monument came up in 1908, and it’s still having an impact now. That makes no sense to me, and it should not make sense to you. Why do we in the United States give a trophy to the loser? … Our tax dollars should not preserve hatred, something that we do not stand for. It’s real easy. If you want to get the attention of everybody under the Gold Dome, don’t pay your tax dollars. I said it!” 

Community business owners from Little Shop of Stories, Brick Store Pub and Leon’s Full Service, Clarity Fitness, and Charis Books also spoke or submitted statements to the importance of having the Confederate monument removed from the city where they do business every day.

 

“General” Larry Platt, 73, has been fighting to get the monument, and others in the Atlanta area, removed since 2017. He carried laminated news articles and photographs detailing his personal history of his involvement in the movement. Platt was granted the title of “General” by civil rights icon Rev. Hosea Williams for his activism. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. Rep. John Lewis in Selma, Ala. In 1966, KKK members drove a car into Platt while he was riding his bicycle. He still has visible scars on his head and legs from that attack.

He was representing the Georgia NAACP at Wednesday’s protest. “I want that monument torn down. I have been asking for it for a long time.”

City Commissioner Lesa Mayer was in attendance at the protest. “I think events like this continue to demonstrate how important it is to the community that the obelisk be moved, and be moved quickly. People continue to show up, people continue to speak out, it is not going to become any less important, so action needs to be taken.”

Here are more photos from the June 17 demonstration:

Co-Chair Mawuli Davis speaks during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Mike Gallagher, co-owner of Brick Store Pub and Leon’s Full Service was one of the Decatur business owners who spoke during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Protestors hold signs during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Signs placed on the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial are seen before the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

A sign reading “Destroy Racist Monuments” is seen following the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

General Larry Platt, a long-time foot soldier in the civil rights movement points at the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial as he cries out “Tear it down” during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Some of the signs placed around the base of the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial are seen after the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Rev. Amantha Barbee from Oakhurst Presbyterian Church (l) and Rev. James Brewer-Calvert from Decatur First Christian Church raise their fists during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Molly Davis, 10, and her father Chris Davis, a teacher at Decatur High School, hold up signs during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Mary Claire Kelly holds up a sign up during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Amy Landesberg holds a sign during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Laura Haoo raises her fist during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Andrew Holley holds a sign during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Crista Irwin holds a sign during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Some of the signs placed around the base of the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial are seen before the start of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Unitarian Universalist Community Minister Rev. Jonathan Roger holds a sign next to the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial before the start of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Miriam Davidow looks at the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial before the start of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Some of the signs placed around the base of the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial are seen before the start of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Civil rights activist Meymoona Freeman looks at the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial before the start of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square on June 17 demanding the removal of all monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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