Group blasts Kennesaw for removing Confederate battle flag from park

June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (left) that was flown during the Civil War at the city’s war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (left) that was flown during the Civil War at the city’s war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Georgia Division said it’s prepared to take legal action against the city of Kennesaw for removing the battle flag from a war memorial.

Martin O’Toole, a spokesman for the group, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the group is reviewing the city’s decision and will “probably” file a temporary restraining order against Kennesaw.

O’Toole said the Georgia Division has already filed a similar order against the city of Athens and is drafting another to prevent DeKalb County from removing the 30-foot Lost Cause monument on Decatur square. Any action taken against Kennesaw will come after that, O’Toole said.

City Council on Monday unanimously voted to remove the flag from Commemorative Park at the corner of Main and Cherokee Streets next to the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History. O’Toole said Kennesaw’s decision violates state law that prohibits the city from removing the flag from the memorial.

“I guess they are content to be oath breakers,” he said.

June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (left) that was flown during the Civil War at the city's war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (left) that was flown during the Civil War at the city's war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The law in question originated from a 2001 compromise in the Georgia Legislature that removed the segregation-era state flag that incorporated the Confederate battle flag. The law also makes it a misdemeanor to move, conceal or alter a publicly owned monument to military service on public property.

» PHOTOS: Confederate memorials across metro Atlanta

According to the city’s resolution calling for the flag’s removal, the statute allows the city to “take appropriate measures for the preservation, protection, and interpretation” of memorials by replacing the “historically unrelated” battle flag adopted by the Army of Northern Virginia under Confederate General Robert E. Lee with the one Georgia flew during the Civil War. The new flag features the Georgia state seal on a blue background.

June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (showing in this picture) that was flown during the Civil War at the city's war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (showing in this picture) that was flown during the Civil War at the city's war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Mayor Derek Easterling said the City Council’s decision is part of Kennesaw’s desire to be a progressive, vibrant community that fosters “opportunity, inclusion and security.”

“We are living up to that and we are who we say we are,” he said. “The flag that’s flying now is historically accurate and suitable for all of Kennesaw.”

City spokeswoman Rebecca Graham said the new flag was hoisted in place of the battle flag Tuesday morning. The battle flag had been torn down and removed by vandals a few weeks ago, and Graham said the city chose not to replace it.

Kennesaw's fight against the flag dates back to 2017 when Council members voted to ask state leaders to allow local governments to determine the best way to honor military personnel. A petition created in 2017 also called for the flag's removal.

June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (left) that was flown during the Civil War at the city's war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
June 16, 2020 Kennesaw - The Confederate battle flag was removed and replaced it with the original Georgia state flag (left) that was flown during the Civil War at the city's war memorial in downtown Kennesaw on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The Kennesaw City Council voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from its war memorial and replace it with the original Georgia state flag that was flown during the Civil War. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

According to that petition, the flag was installed to honor William A. Fuller, the Confederate train conductor whose reclaiming of a locomotive during one of the Civil War’s largest train chases led to the deaths of eight Union raiders. More than 7,000 people signed the petition in this city of about 34,000 people.

Former City Councilman Jimmy Dickens, owner of Amazing Cuts Barber Shop on North Main Street, said Tuesday he supported the removal of the flag while in office and believes the recent Black Lives Matter protests surrounding the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota may have spurred Kennesaw to take action.

“I’m just glad to see that change is happening for the better,” he said.

However, Dickens said Kennesaw shouldn’t stop there. The city also needs to examine its use of the locomotive, referred to The General, in its logo and official seal due to its association with the Confederacy.

“It has a place in history, but it should not be the face of Kennesaw,” he said of The General.