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Stone Mountain’s cemetery flag saga continues

Stone Mountain Trending

Stone Mountain’s cemetery flag saga continues

City of Stone Mountain seal on the historic railroad depot. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Jaedon Mason, contributor 

Stone Mountain, GA — The Sons of the Confederate Veterans presented new evidence to the Stone Mountain city council on June 6 about the Confederate flag that was raised at 1025 Silver Hill Road. 

The flag has since been taken down by an unknown party, but the focus has shifted to the legal status of the flagpole.

Currently, there is a flag pole located on grounds made up of four burial plots in the city cemetery that are owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Organization. 

The director of litigation for the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans spoke about a previous court case dated back to March 2002 referencing this same flag pole. The lawsuit was presented as if the Sons of Confederate Veterans had sued the city and won the right to keep the flag in place when in fact, the court actually ruled that the Sons of Confederate Veterans had violated what was found to be a constitutional city ordinance.

The court ruled as follows:

“[The] plaintiffs (Sons of Confederate Veterans) violated paragraph 2 of the Revised Ordinance when they erected this flagpole. The Court further concludes that this provision is not facially unconstitutional nor unconstitutional when applied to these facts. Therefore, plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claims based on First Amendment grounds are DENIED.

“[The] plaintiffs were given no opportunity to appeal that decision before it was carried out; indeed, the plaintiffs were not even provided notice of the decision before it was carried out. The evidence reflects that the Mayor ordered the flagpole removed on April 24, 2000, and the following day it was removed.

Accordingly, the Court concludes that Mayor Burris was acting as the final decision-maker on behalf of the City when he took these actions, and his actions are imputed to the City for the purposes of plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claim.”

Nevertheless, continuing debate and implicit threats of legal action surrounding these grave plots, caused the Stone Mountain City Attorney to ask for the opportunity to fully delve into research on the controversy. 

“When we discussed this issue at the work session a few weeks ago, there were many unanswered questions,” the city attorney said. “I believe there still are many unanswered questions…I respectfully request additional time to get whatever information we need from the city so we can be fully informed moving forward.”

In other news, the city discussed:

— The logistics for the upcoming Juneteenth celebration. The celebration will be on June 17th from 1:00 pm to 7 p.m. The Main Street parking lot will be closed from 2 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Main Street itself from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The upcoming Property tax rate approval process.  The millage rate determines how much a citizen pays in property tax. The current rate is 16.5 mills and while the new rate won’t be higher than this, since property values have gone up about 29%, there is expected to be a tax increase if the rate is kept the same. There need to be three public hearings to approve the new rate and those meetings are scheduled for June 22 at 10 a.m., June 29 at 6 p.m., with one more to be scheduled.  Councilmember Clint Monroe will be hosting a property tax appeals seminar Wednesday, June 28 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Sue Kellogg Library.

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