Beacon Hill, Decatur students host rally to remove cannon from Decatur Square
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, Ga. – The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights hosted an event on Sunday, Oct. 11, to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and protest for the removal of a cannon located in front of the old DeKalb County courthouse on the Decatur Square.
Some states have started recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day to celebrate Native American culture and history. It replaces recognition of Columbus Day, which many say “glorifies an exploration that led to the genocide of native peoples and paved the way for slavery,” according to USA Today.
The local event was primarily planned by a group of Decatur High School seniors who are working with Beacon Hill’s Confederate monument removal committee. About 100 people gathered to hear stories of indigenous people from artists of color.
“We’re here to tell stories from a different perspective, from the perspective of artists of color and the indigenous community itself to make sure that the perspectives of the people of Decatur are fully heard,” Decatur High School senior Koan Roy-Meighoo told Decaturish.
Those in attendance listened to song, spoken word and storytelling, which included guest speaker John Winterhawk, a member of the Muscogee-Creek Nation.
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The cannon was placed in Decatur in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and memorializes the removal of indigenous peoples following the Creek Indian War of 1836. The war was a consequence of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which President Andrew Jackson strongly supported, according to a report from the National Park Service.
In 1821, Georgia forced the sale of half of the remaining Creek land, including the land that is now the city of Decatur, which was taken by white settlers in a land lottery, LaDoris Bias-Davis said during the event.
“For these 114 years, it has propagated a hateful, one-sided and white supremacist version of history. Despite it doing this for so long we still face push-back for prominent figures in Decatur and organizations when we try to remove it,” he said.
“Today we gather because we must realize that this issue cannot be pushed to the side. We must realize that this cannon does not solely affect indigenous people and we must realize that its removal is a universal human rights issue,” Roy-Meighoo added.
Winterhawk recounted that this type of cannon was used by the soldiers on the Trail of Tears, the infamous forced relocation of Native Americans in the Southeast during the 1830s that resulted in thousands of deaths.
“The cannons came after us and followed us all the way out there,” Winterhawk said. “The cannon that you see on the Square today was along those trails with us. They would come as a warning sign not to leave, not to turn back, to keep going.”
Winterhawk also advocated for the removal of the cannon from the Decatur Square.
“I wanted to ask if the government of the city of Decatur would put away the cannons, put them in storage and take away the weapons of war and make peace with us again and live a peaceful life. Peace is the only thing that will support living because we can’t live without peace,” he said.
Responsibility for removing the cannon would fall to the DeKalb County government.
A Confederate monument, that was placed in Decatur in 1908, was removed from the Decatur Square on June 18; however, the cannon was not ordered to be removed at that time.
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Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger ruling addressed the Confederate monument as city officials claimed it had become “a flashpoint, a danger to the community, and a burden on the city of Decatur,” Decaturish previously reported.
“I think with the significance of the obelisk coming down, which was basically a marker glorifying slavery and the Civil War, I thought well there’s something right next to it that also signifies hate but especially for another group of people,” Genesis Reddicks, a senior at Decatur High School, told Decaturish. “It’s so important to recognize all of the terrible things that have occurred to all groups of people that are often overlooked. We couldn’t just take down one monument of hate. We have to take down all of them.”
Julian Fortuna, Decatur High School senior, also said that events locally, including among the student body, and nationally have highlighted a need for community education.
Fonta High, co-chair of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, said that community education is something the Confederate monument removal committee is working on. She added that there’s so much work to be done around people’s understanding of indigenous issues.
Beacon Hill is at the forefront of the effort to take down the cannon, as it was for the removal of the Confederate monument. The group is sponsoring a petition to request that the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners pass a resolution to remove the cannon.
The petition currently has 415 signatures out of a goal of 500.
“We have created a petition to reflect the demands of Decatur and to advocate for the removal of this cannon, accept that we place the cannon into the hands of local Muscogee leaders, and advocate for the change that we need to see in our community,” Fortuna said.
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