DeKalb County officials can move forward with removing a Confederate monument from downtown Decatur—if they choose to do so.
After months of research, DeKalb officials received a legal opinion from county attorney O.V. Brantley on whether the Confederate monument could be moved from its current location near the historic county courthouse.
According to Brantley, the county owns the monument and the land the monument is located on.
“State law authorizes the county to relocate the monument to another site where it would remain visibly displayed or contextualize the monument with explanatory signage that puts the monument in historical context,” Brantley said.
A violent protest which left a woman dead in Charlottesville, NC in August sparked calls to remove Confederate monuments across the nation.
On Oct. 10, Mereda Davis Johnson introduced a resolution to remove the statue.
“[The county] is not required to take any action regarding the monument under state law and the status quo could be maintained by leaving the monument in its current condition and location,” said Brantley.
Local civil rights advocacy groups praised the legal ruling, stating it was a step in the right direction for the county.
Mawuli Davis, president of the Beacon Hill Chapter of the NAACP, said DeKalb should act immediately to remove the monument.
“One of the issues that we think should be clear is that you now have the power and we hope you remove the confederate monument,” Davis said. “The monument romanticizes a period in our history of White supremacy. Now that the legal department has issued its decision, we ask that you move forward in removing this monument.”
Brantley said removing the statue and concealing or hiding it from public view could cause legal action against the county. According to state law OCCG 50-3-1 (b) (1), it is unlawful to “mutilate, deface, defile, or abuse contemptuously” or for local governments to “remove or conceal from display…for the purpose of preventing the visible display.”
“Transfer of the monument to a third party in order for it to remove or conceal the monument, while not explicitly prohibited under the plain language of the law, would pose a risk of being found violative of the statute because it would seem to be an effort to circumvent the spirit and intent of the state legislation,” Brantley said.
Local advocacy group Hate Free Decatur stated they would like commissioners to make a decision on the monument’s fate before 2018.
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