Should it stay or should it go

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Rally held to remove Confederate monument

Several DeKalb County-based civil rights organizations and DeKalb residents held a march in Decatur proclaiming the Confederate monument near the old courthouse in Downtown Decatur must be removed and put into a museum.

Hate Free Decatur, a newly formed grassroots civil rights organization, along with local chapters of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter held a rally to ask government officials to remove the monument Sept. 10. The rally began at the Beacon Municipal Plaza with protesters holding signs condemning the “lost cause” of the Confederacy.

Sara Patenaude, co-founder of Hate Free Decatur, said the monument sends the wrong message to residents.

“We have a petition with [more than] 2,000 signatures calling for this monument removal. We know that they are currently delaying in action,” Patenaude said. “We want to end the White supremacist systems in Decatur and in DeKalb County. We are calling for the commission to take action.”

Some protesters believe the monument, built in 1907, was a way to support Jim Crow laws of the south. In 1907, the Agnes Lee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised approximately $2,000 to build the statue.

Protest and rallies for the removal of Confederate monuments in Georgia hit a stall after reviewing state law OCCG 50-3-1 (b) (1). The law states that makes it 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”

Attorney Gerald Griggs, a former public defender with the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office, said county officials and city commissioners can still act to remove the statue despite state law.

“Monuments under [state law] 50-3-1 (b) (2) says monuments can be removed and replaced for their preservational protection. That’s a clear exception in the law, so there’s no need for legislative change,” Griggs said. “I think the lawmakers are being disingenuous when they talk about not having the power to remove these statues.”

In August, the city of Decatur reported someone smeared feces on the monument and weeks later the monument was covered in yarn to hide the statute’s wording.

“For this monument own protection, it should be removed and placed in a museum. Currently the law allows that to happen,” Griggs said. “I would call on the county commissioners to research the law and go to that exception and make that decision to remove this.”

During a press conference before the rally, DeKalb Chapter President of the NAACP Teresa Hardy said she was thrilled to see Hate Free Decatur bring other groups together for a common goal.

Hardy said she wants the NAACP to continue to collaborate with other organizations.

“Under my leadership, my biggest thing is collaboration. We all worked together to end segregation and end racial discrimination,” Hardy said. “If we can all work together to get this done together, I think the fight will get better.”

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