“If we want to create a welcoming, inclusive environment, moving this monument is a good-faith effort and a start,” he said. “Now, we’re moving past the time of listening. Now, we want action.”
Whiteside’s filing suggests the statue be moved to the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. Citing online tutorials about how to bring down obelisks and other monuments, as well as incidents where Confederate statues have been flash points for violence, Whiteside said its continued presence could constitute a public safety concern.
The issues have been exacerbated over the past month, he said, as protests in Lawrenceville and elsewhere have called greater attention to symbols of racism and hate. The filing notes that the monument is near the location of the 1911 lynching of Charlie Hale.
The monument, which is on county property, has recently been vandalized, Whiteside said. Signs about white supremacy and racism were posted to it, and it was spray painted with “Black Lives Matter.”
Nabilah Islam, a former Congressional candidate who also started the petition to take the statue down, said it should never have been erected.
“We need to take down symbols of hate,” she said. “These monuments belong in museums. They don’t belong in public spaces.”
While Whiteside’s filing would allow a judge to order the removal, the petition asks county commissioners to vote to move the monument. A spokesperson for the county could not immediately comment on any plans commissioners might have, or whether they backed the solicitor’s filing.
Whiteside said in the filing that leaving the statue alone would continue to cost local government — in cleaning the monument when it is defaced and in investigating who damaged it. He said its continued presence could draw violence.
“In recent days, in the midst of historic, nationwide protests of the killing of unarmed black men, the Confederate Monument in Lawrenceville has become a focus of justifiable anger and frustration; an impetus for protests and rallies; and most importantly, and urgent, impending threat to public safety,” he said.