MACON — A lawsuit in Georgia attempting to prevent the removal of two Confederate statues from downtown Macon is back in a state courtroom.
Federal Judge Hugh Lawson handed the case back to Bibb County Superior Court, ruling Nov. 18 that federal court doesn't have jurisdiction over the remaining claims.
Plaintiff Martin Bell, the state commander of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars Georgia Society Inc. sued Macon-Bibb County in state court, but included federal claims. After the city-county moved the case to federal court, Bell amended the complaint to remove his federal claims.
“We are still fully committed to improving our downtown green space to make it more welcoming and inviting for all people,” Macon-Bibb County spokesperson Chris Floore told The Telegraph, saying local government would see the court fight through.
Macon-Bibb commissioners voted 5-4 on July 27 to move two Confederate monuments in downtown Macon. One is a anonymous Confederate soldier statue, while the other is the Women of the South monument.
The commission voted to move both statues to Whittle Park outside of Rose Hill Cemetery to make road improvements.
Bell won a temporary injunction from Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith, who was appointed after Bibb County judges recused themselves. The injunction prevented Bibb County from doing anything to “move, obscure, deface” or let “harm of any kind” come to the monuments.
Bell claims in the lawsuit that “the proposed moving of the Monuments is a racially-motivated action designed for political purposes to placate the mob mentalities current in American society.”
With the case back in Bibb County Superior Court, Floore said he didn’t know which judge would get the case or when the next hearing will be.
The city-county needs at least $500,000 to move the soldier statue, and another $1.5 million to move the Women of the South statue and begin constructing a roundabout where it now stands. Another $3 million has to be allocated to start Rosa Parks Square improvements.
Floore said the commission has already allocated $200,000 to the project from funds that were for storm water and sewage infrastructure.
The Community Foundation of Central Georgia has started a fund for private donors and has raised around $160,000, Floore said.
The commission rejected allocating another $300,000 to the project Nov. 17.
Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution