Confederate monument focus of discussion

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Hannah Hill, pastor at Decatur-based Church of Mary Magdalene, said she’s grown up in the South her entire life and is proud of her Southern roots. But Hill, the descendant of slave owners, said there are aspects of her roots she’s not proud of.

On Aug. 19, Hill said it’s time the Confederate monument located in downtown Decatur finds a new home.

Hill, along with approximately 50 attendees, gathered around the monument to hold a discussion about the statue’s possible removal.

“I started the event to hopefully come together to get more minds together and bring about more solutions,” Hill said.

“There are two sides. There are our White brothers and sisters who feel like their heritage is being taken from them and there are our African-American brothers and sisters whose heritage was stolen. There’s hurt on both sides and in order to come to some kind of healing there has to be a discussion.”

In the aftermath of violent events in Charlottesville, Va., many at the discussion said the monument was offensive and should be removed and taken to another location or build an additional monument should be erected to better represent the city of Decatur.

One woman died and several others were injured in Charlottesville Aug. 12 after groups of White nationalists and protesters wearing Nazi memorabilia gathered for a rally to oppose remove all of a Confederate statue were met by counter-protesters.

“We’re trying to come together. We had to get this discussion off of social media where people are just yelling at each other,” Hill said. “We needed to be in a place where people can see one another and people know the person they’re talking to is real with real emotions and feelings.”

The Agnes Lee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised $2,000 from different local donors to build the Decatur Confederate monument in 1907. A year later, the monument was unveiled.

In part, the script in the monument reads, “How well they kept the faith is faintly written in the records of the armies and the history of the times. We who knew them testify that as their courage was without a precedent, their fortitude has been without parallel. May their prosperity be worthy.”

Hill said she and others who oppose the statue will try to get city and county government involved.

Longtime DeKalb County resident Stan Cowan said he protested the Confederate monument’s removal in 1992. Cowan said the time to talk is over and the time to take action is now.

“People keep throwing this line around that we need to go to the city or commission meetings and look into state law. Well, state law is the key. That’s the only path moving forward,” Cowan said. “It doesn’t help to go to county commission or city meetings because, even if they wanted to remove it, their hands are tied by state law.”

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association recently released a statement regarding petitions to remove the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial citing state law.  

According to Georgia state code 50-3-1, “It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or other entity acting without authority to mutilate, deface, defile, abuse contemptuously, relocate, remove, conceal, or obscure any privately-owned monument, plaque, marker, or memorial which is dedicated to, honors, or recounts the military service of any past or present military personnel of this state…”

“As far as trying to tear it down or remove it, they’re restricted by state law. The answer to this has to run through the state capital. That’s the only way,” Cowan said.

A petition to remove the monument from the city of Decatur had received more than 2,000 signatures as of Aug. 21.  

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