At Issue: Who should decide if Confederate monuments stay or go?

  • Bill Banks
  • For the AJC
12:00 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 Metro Atlanta / State news
The obelisk in Decatur Square has recently become the subject of a petition to see it removed and one to ensure it remains. Bill Banks for the AJC

The Civil War monument industry has taken a hit the last two weeks since the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. Decades-old markers, monoliths and memorials, which had long blended into the landscape, have become targets of profound wrath.

During an Aug. 21 meeting in Decatur, one group presented a petition with 2,069 signatures asking for the removal of the obelisk in Decatur Square, while another had over 1,000 people asking that it get protected and kept right where it is.

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett reiterated this week that “there will not be a speedy resolution” to the monument dilemma. That is partly due to a complicated and occasionally opaque state law passed in 2001. In an interview this week Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, who represents Decatur, said that this law clearly prevents a city or county (the Decatur monument is actually owned by DeKalb County) from removing the monument.

But, she added, the statute is silent on whether interpretive signage — something giving the obelisk historical and cultural context — can be erected.

“I don’t have an expressed opinion myself on the monument,” Parent said. “I think there’s a firm argument for a variety of outcomes. But I would like to change the state law so local governments have control. I don’t think people in Valdosta, for instance, are interested in the Decatur monument.”

Should the law be changed, should interpretive signage get added, or should it get smashed to smithereens and recycled to build another Decatur restaurant? Should all of Georgia weigh in or just the people who walk past it every day?

Send your responses to communitynews@ajc.com. Comments may be edited for length and/or clarity. They also may be published in print or digital formats.

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