Atlanta council asks Deal to consider changes to Stone Mountain relief

The Atlanta City Council is calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to consider giving Stone Mountain’s famous Confederate Memorial Carving a makeover.

Councilman Michael Julian Bond is behind a resolution asking Deal to form a committee to study possible changes to the famous state-owned memorial.

Bond, who described the relief of Confederate generals as “art,” said he doesn’t believe it should be sandblasted off the face of the mountain. Instead, state leaders should explore adding others to the carving who reflect Georgia’s broader history, he said, such as James Oglethorpe, President Jimmy Carter or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“That would make Stone Mountain, I think, an enlightened place that reflects all of Georgia’s history,” he said. “…Georgia’s history is much greater than the four years of the Confederacy; it’s much more diverse and rich than that period which has been highly romanticized, particularly in the last 50 to 60 years.”

Bond’s move was affirmed by a 9 to 2 vote on Monday, with council members Howard Shook and Alex Wan voting against the resolution.

“I’d be supportive of an affirmative statement, just in general, about our position on symbols that could be perceived as racist, but I feel this is a bit of a stretch for the council to do at this time,” said Wan, who grew up in Stone Mountain.

Councilman Ivory Young gave an impassioned speech in which he called for the relief’s alteration, if not removal.

Young, who grew up in Alabama, said he long ago vowed never to visit the park “until they remove that image from that mountain, glorifying those terrorists. Because that’s what they are, that’s what they represent.”

Just what should become of the carving that towers over pedestrians and cyclists at Stone Mountain has become the stuff of heated and satirical debate in the wake of South Carolina's decision to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds.

Last month, the council unanimously backed Councilman Andre Dickens’ resolution that urges state officials to remove the Confederate Battle Flag emblem and other Confederate symbols as an option for state license plates.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed said Reed hasn’t yet reviewed the legislation and has no comment at this time.

A spokesman for the governor said they could not comment because they have not reviewed the proposal. In late June, the governor said he won't rule out comprehensive changes to state laws that protect Confederate images, but urged against sweeping reactions to those symbols amid the recent uproar over the emblems, saying the state "cannot deny its heritage."

Bond also introduced legislation that asks Deal to give funds to GBI to investigate officer-involved shootings if racial biases are alleged. It passed unanimously.