A Confederate monument that has stood in McDonough’s town square for more than 100 years is no more.
Crews began dismantling the structure around 10 p.m. Tuesday, dislodging the statute of Confederate soldier Charles T. Zachry near midnight. Crews came back Wednesday to finish the job after running into unspecified technical difficulties, the county said.
“The monument, whether for or against the removal, has created a tough dialogue about race relations and leadership opportunities,” Commission Chairwoman June Wood, who voted in favor of its dismantling, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “Let us continue these conversations while also offering positive solutions and shared goals to help us move Henry County in a positive direction together.”
The monument’s removal brought to an end weeks of debates about its significance in the majority-minority county, with supporters saying it represents their heritage and opponents calling it a symbol of hate and oppression.
The Henry County Commission voted to dismantle the structure in early July in a 4-1 vote. Days later, the Sons of Confederate Soldier and the Georgia Minutemen, sued to stop the action, but were turned away by the courts. Voters got a chance to speak their minds on the move last week at a commission meeting in which commissioners bickered over how the issue was handled, with some decrying the lack of public before the vote.
As word leaked that the monument would be removed, supporters and opponents of the action galvanized their forces.
“What will you tell your children and grandchildren about the time the enemy ordered the removal of our monument to our brave heroes?” the Georgia Minutemen wrote on their Facebook page in asking opponents of the removal to come out.
But unlike other recent monument removals, there were no cheers of joy or boos of dismay as it was taken down Tuesday.
Henry Police put supporters and opponents of the monument’s dismantling about three blocks away from the square where they were unable to witness the event. With around 200 in attendance, police said they separated the groups into two individual camps for their safety and to reduce any friction.
At one point, opponents of the monument tried to march to confront the structure’s supporters, but police stopped the two groups from a face-to-face meeting. They briefly got close enough to shout “Black Lives Matter” and “all lives matter” at each other.
Ray McBerry, the Georgia Minutemen founder, was arrested on charges of obstruction early in the evening, but later release with a citation, a police department spokeswoman said.
Elton Alexander, a member of the Stockbridge City Council — Stockbridge is Henry’s biggest city — approved of the county’s action.
“I am overjoyed on this historic night when Henry County officially embraced diversity and inclusion in the week civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis will be laid to rest,” he said.
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