Confederate monument removed from Decatur Square

A decades-long fight among residents and leaders to remove a Confederate monument on the Decatur Square has come to an end after the monument was recently declared a public nuisance by a local judge.

Amid local and nationwide anti-racism protests, Decatur City Attorney Bryan Downs filed a complaint in DeKalb County Superior Court June 10, asking that the monument be relocated after being vandalized and potentially putting the public at risk.

“It is inspiring outrage, leading to demonstrations and protests, which potentially expose the public and police officers to COVID-19 and which could result in violence, injury or death to individuals, including those who may attempt to forcibly remove the monument,” stated the city. 

    The Confederate monument in Decatur Square—one day before it was removed—during a rally calling for its removal. Photo by Jay Phillips.

The monument is owned by DeKalb County. In 2017, DeKalb County commissioners voted to approve a resolution to find a legal way to remove the downtown Decatur monument honoring the Confederacy. Officials had to consider a state law passed in 2001 that states a Confederate monument cannot be moved from its original location or covered unless for preservation purposes.

 “We appreciate DeKalb County’s efforts in recent years to attempt to relocate the monument and we share the county’s frustration that no one was willing to accept the monument,” stated Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett. “We are at a point now where we cannot delay. This symbol of hate and oppression has created a real and present danger to our community, and it must be moved for the protection of the public.”

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger held an emergency hearing via Zoom June 12 to hear Decatur’s complaint. He ordered that the monument be relocated by 11:59 p.m. June 26 to a secure location until a further court order.

“Though the [monument] will be stored out of public view, abatement as required by this order is not for the purpose of preventing public display of the [monument], but instead is an appropriate measure to abate a public nuisance and protect the [monument],” the order states.

    The Confederate monument in Decatur Square—one day before it was removed—during a rally calling for its removal. Photo by Jay Phillips

The day before the monument was removed, a rally organized by Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, Paul McLennan and Fonta High was held in the Decatur Square.

Business owners, community members and District 64 Georgia Rep. Derrick Johnson called for the monument to be removed, stating the monument has made multiple generations feel oppressed.

“If you have children or grandchildren, they should not fight the same fight that Dr. King and Rosa Parks fought,” Johnson said. “We have to do this for the next generation. Enough is enough.”

Madison Hatfield, an employee of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, said her privilege allowed her to ignore the statue for the last 30 years, and she said community members can’t tell their stories of respect and progress until the monument is removed.

“Just because it doesn’t cause me pain, does not mean pain does not exist,” Hatfield said. “It is a weapon.”

Reporter Jay Phillips contributed to this report.

The base of the Confederate monument after the obelisk was removed. Photo by Jay Phillips.


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