DeKalb will remove ‘genocide cannon’ from Decatur Square

10/11/2021 — Decatur, Georgia —A  cannon monument, installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1906, is displayed near the Old DeKalb County courthouse  in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/ Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
10/11/2021 — Decatur, Georgia —A cannon monument, installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1906, is displayed near the Old DeKalb County courthouse in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/ Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The purported ‘relic of the Indian War of 1836′ has been located near the historic DeKalb County courthouse for 115 years

After being located in Decatur Square for more than a century, a relic that activists call the “genocide cannon” has been forced to retreat.

The DeKalb County Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to remove the cannon, which has ties to the Indian War of 1836, and place it into storage. The cannon has garnered the ire of local activists, who say it’s a tasteless representation of the brutality suffered by thousands of Muscogee people who were displaced from their native lands.

An estimated 3,500 Native Americans died during the bloody conflict and the ensuing Trail of Tears, where tribes were driven from the Southeast.

“Public art should unite and heal us instead of sowing division,” said Phillip Cuffey, a leader within the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, who wrote commissioners a statement during public comment.

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The history and ownership of the relic remains in question. In 1906, it was placed near DeKalb’s historic courthouse by a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but there’s no paperwork showing it was donated to the county, Decatur or made public property.

The Decatur City Commission previously voted to support removing the cannon. A local activist group, the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, has held multiple protests over the past year, including Monday on Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“For it to be located on the stolen land of the indigenous people is a slap in the face,” Kayla Evans, a senior at Decatur High School, said during Monday’s protest.

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10/11/2021 — Decatur, Georgia — Demonstrators march along West Trinity Place in Decatur as they protest for the removal of a United Daughters of the Confederacy monument located in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/ Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

10/11/2021 — Decatur, Georgia — Demonstrators march along West Trinity Place in Decatur as they protest for the removal of a United Daughters of the Confederacy monument located in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/ Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
10/11/2021 — Decatur, Georgia — Demonstrators march along West Trinity Place in Decatur as they protest for the removal of a United Daughters of the Confederacy monument located in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/ Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

It’s also unclear whether the cannon dates back to the war in 1836. It’s own inscription calls it a relic, not a memorial or anything similar. The cannon will be removed within 90 days, and an ad will be placed in the county legal organ asking for the cannon’s “rightful owner(s)” to claim it.

“I appreciate all the commissioners for their support in getting to this moment where can, just one day after Indigenous Peoples’ Day, move forward with this,” said Commissioner Ted Terry, who co-sponsored the resolution to remove the cannon.

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Not all DeKalb residents were onboard with removing the historic relic. Chris Billingsley, a former Decatur High teacher, wrote the commission and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a letter saying the cannon’s inscription should be rewritten to act as a memorial.

“I believe the Indian Wars Cannon should remain on the Decatur Square and be rededicated with a new inscription that reads: “Monument to the DeKalb veterans of the Creek Wars of the early 1800s. They pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to defend their neighbor and our way of life,’” his comment said.

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Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, the other sponsor of the resolution, said the cannon is beyond saving. She isn’t sure when the cannon will be removed or if anything will replace it.

“Whatever may replace the relic, it will be a symbol of love, not hate,” she told the AJC after the vote. “We don’t want to tolerate any symbols of hate or oppression.”

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