OK Cafe will auction controversial flag carving

The wood carving of Georgia's 1956 state flag, complete with Rebel emblem, was moved to the back dining area. Courtesy Tony Wilbert.

Combined ShapeCaption
The wood carving of Georgia's 1956 state flag, complete with Rebel emblem, was moved to the back dining area. Courtesy Tony Wilbert.

Former state senator Vincent Fort still not pleased: ‘There’s more to it.’

OK Cafe will permanently remove from its restaurant a controversial rendering of the old Georgia flag that features the Confederate battle emblem, owners said Friday.

"I thought, 'I'm just going to take it down,'" said Susan DeRose, who spoke with Channel 2 Action News anchor Justin Farmer.

DeRose is a co-owner of Liberty House Restaurant corporation which operates OK Cafe as well as Bones and Blue Ridge Grille. “I understand it offends people. I’m going to take it down, auction it off and give the money to the police force,” she said.

The Atlanta Police Department did not know about the auction and won’t accept any proceeds from it.

“The Atlanta Police Department was not consulted by the owner of OK Café about receiving a donation from the sale of an old Georgia flag that features the Confederate battle emblem, nor does the department plan to receive money from such a sale,” the agency said in statement.

Former state senator Vincent Fort, who protested the artwork during his time in office, responded to the carving’s removal, telling the AJC, “I’m not mollified.” Representatives for OK Cafe did not respond to the AJC’s request for comment.

Last Sunday, OK Cafe grabbed national attention by displaying a large sign on its exterior as protesters gathered in its parking lot of the old-school diner at the intersection of West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Drive for a march to the nearby Georgia governor's mansion. In red capital letters, the sign read, "Lives that matter are made with positive purpose."

Many interpreted the sign's language as a rebuke to the Black Lives Matter movement. The demonstrators gathering outside of the restaurant the day the sign was displayed were organized by a group called Buckhead4BlackLives.

This week, DeRose defended the banner and her message.

In a lengthy interview with the Atlanta Business Chronicle, she detailed her viewpoint that small businesses were under attack by protesters who have demonstrated for nearly two weeks after video surfaced of the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25.

“They’re being looted. They’re being burned. They’re being taken out,” DeRose said about small businesses.

Five years ago the restaurant was at the center of another controversy defined by racial themes. In 2015, while he was still in office, Fort led protests at OK Cafe and Bones to bring attention to the Confederate imagery and pressure the restaurant to remove the artwork.

DeRose pushed back, saying that the former Georgia flag was in use at an important time for her and other American women. She has consistently pointed out the old Georgia flag flew over the capitol when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that ended segregation and outlawed employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Fort said that he was not satisfied with the removal of the artwork.

“For them to put up that stuff in the wake of George Floyd’s murder when people are protesting — these people are very calculated in the way they are demeaning black lives,” said Fort. “It’s rubbing salt in the wounds of hurt people, both black and white. So they’re taking it down, but there’s more to it.”