Civil rights groups join Confederate enthusiasts in opposition to MLK monument

Local civil rights groups have joined Confederate enthusiasts in opposition to the placement of a monument to Martin Luther King Jr. on Stone Mountain.

Neither side wants its legacy associated with the other.

The two leading and historic civil rights groups are involved in a joint effort to see the Confederate celebrations and symbols removed from Stone Mountain. They are also calling for the termination of all public monies used to sponsor hateful reminders of a cruel and bloody time in United States history.

"Why are governments spending tax dollars to preserve monuments of hate?" asked [SCLC president Charles] Steele. "And more so, why put any reference of Dr. King, one of Georgia's most favorite sons, anywhere near these three traitors?"

On Monday, state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said much the same thing in an interview with NPR:

“It's as if the evil that those slave-owning Confederates perpetrated is somehow ameliorated by the presence of a monument for Dr. King.”

On Monday, the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans put out a statement that included this:

“The erection of monuments to anyone other than Confederate heroes in Stone Mountain Park is in contradistinction to the purpose for which the park exists and would make it a memorial to something different. The park was never intended to be a memorial to multiple causes but solely to the Confederacy.

“Therefore, monuments to either … King or soldiers of any color who fought against the Confederacy would be a violation of the purpose for which the park was created and exists."

It is not a universal opinion. Governor Deal has endorsed the concept of an MLK monument atop Stone Mountain. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who once headed up the SCLC, referred to the state plan as “amazing.”

Jen Talaber, spokeswoman for the governor, confirmed the Wednesday meeting with the civil rights groups. After hearing his guests out, she said, Deal will also want to speak with them about his “Opportunity School District” plan – a 2016 constitutional referendum that would give the state the authority to take over failing public schools within local systems.

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On a related note, the OK Cafe is back. And so is the carved wood rendering of the old state flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem.

The revered Atlanta eatery was destroyed by a blaze in December, and some Democrats hoped the wood carving of Georgia's 1956 flag that hung on the restaurant’s wall burned up with it.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, the chamber's No. 2 Democrat, urged the restaurant's owner to take the carving down, and tried to rally business leaders to echo his call. Susan DeRose, the restaurant's owner, said the flag is party of her history “and my history has absolutely nothing to do with prejudice against anyone.”

The restaurant quietly reopened its doors on Monday and Tony Wilbert, a former AJC reporter-turned-public relations mogul, was among a few patrons who trickled in. "Things are finally getting back to normal in Buckhead," he noted in a blog post that included the above picture.

Fort, meanwhile, said he was surprised to hear the flag remained.

"We’re going to continue with our efforts to educate the public and the owners of OK Café," he said. "I’m contacting major businesses in the Atlanta area who have agreed not to patronize any of the restaurants owned by OK Café’s ownership group."

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The Cobb County Commission, which once raised a ruckus by decrying the “gay lifestyle,” today will consider whether to offer full pension benefits to the same-sex spouses of county employees. From the Marietta Daily Journal:

The proposed amendment would remove references to the “lawful wife of a male Participant” and “lawful husband of the female Participant” in favor of “the person who is treated as married” to the employee.

Captain Cathy Brandt, a 26-year veteran of the Cobb Fire Department, welcomes the change, which will give her the option to include her wife, Kathleen Burton, associate pastor at Virginia Highland Church, in her retirement plan.

“I was planning on moving out of state for sure (when I retired), but now I don’t have to do that,” said Brandt, who married her wife in New York three years ago after 13 years together. “It was a load off me that this happened before I retire to give me choices.”

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The Democrats seeking the presidency will meet in their first debate tonight. If you're not in Las Vegas like one of us, there are some local watch parties you can check out.

  • The Hillary Clinton campaign is hosting a get-together featuring House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams at The Glenwood, 1263 Glenwood Ave SE, Atlanta.
  • Bernie Sanders fans have organized dozens of area get-togethers (a map here on Sanders' website). The ones with the most sign-ups so far are at Fadó Irish Pub, 273 Buckhead Ave., Atlanta; Joystick Gamebar, 427 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta; and Marlow's Tavern, 1317 Dunwoody Village Pkwy #102, Dunwoody.
  • The Democratic Party of Georgia (in conjunction with the LGBTQ Caucus and the YDG Stonewall Caucus) is throwing a bash at Amsterdam Atlanta, 502-A Amsterdam Ave. NE, Atlanta.

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On the Republican side, Jeb Bush is rolling out his replacement plan for Obamacare today in New Hampshire. The Washington Post has a preview:

Bush's plan would "provide a tax credit for the purchase of affordable, portable health plans that protect Americans from high-cost medical events," according to his campaign, and it would "increase contribution limits and uses for Health Savings Accounts to help with out of-pocket costs." The campaign did not provide more details about the credit or what the new contribution caps would be.

The plan also calls for increasing funding to the National Institutes of Health; reviewing regulations seen as "barriers" to innovation; capping "the employer tax exclusion to lower insurance premiums;" and enabling "small businesses to make tax-free contributions to their workers’ individual, portable health plans," the Bush campaign said.

The framework sounds somewhat similar to Roswell Republican Rep. Tom Price's long-standing plan, but we'll see how the details align.

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The race for Speaker of the House by Coweta County Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Texas Rep. Bill Flores and others is basically frozen this week as Congress is out of session and everyone waits to see if Rep. Paul Ryan rides in on a white horse.

One impediment for Ryan: The same forces that forced out John Boehner and helped stymie Kevin McCarthy see the former vice presidential nominee as a squish. From the New York Times:

He is being criticized on issues ranging from a 2008 vote to bail out large banks to his longstanding interest in immigration reform to his work on a bipartisan budget measure. On Sunday night, the Drudge Report — a prime driver of conservative commentary — dedicated separate headlines to bashing Mr. Ryan on policy positions.

Even a self-congratulatory book outlining how Mr. Ryan and two other Republican House leaders drafted Tea Party candidates to help them take over the House in 2010 — “Young Guns” — is being recast by some as a manual of how to be traitorous to conservatism.

“Tryouts for speaker continue,” Phyllis Schlafly, founder and chairwoman of the conservative Eagle Forum, said in a statement Friday, when Mr. Ryan was escaping Capitol Hill for the week. “The kingmakers are so desperate for someone to carry their liberal priorities that they are trying to force Congressman Paul Ryan into a job he does not want.”

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Given that parental flare-up in Walton County over middle-school kids who were being taught the basics of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, this might be worth paying attention to as something that might pop up here in January. From The Tennessean:

No Tennessee public school course could include anything deemed "religious doctrine" unless the course is taught in 10th, 11th or 12th grade if a newly proposed bill becomes law.

The bill from Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, comes on the heels of complaints from some parents in several communities as to what their children are learning in middle school about Islam.

"I think that probably the teaching that is going on right now in seventh, eighth grade is not age appropriate," Butt said Friday afternoon. "They are not able to discern a lot of times whether its indoctrination or whether they're learning about what a religion teaches."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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