Kennesaw’s vote occurred more than two hours after dozens of speakers weighed in on whether the battle flag should stay or go.
The majority of those residents, some of whom were Kennesaw State University students, wanted the city to take the flag down, while a few said Kennesaw would be violating state law if it removed the controversial symbol.
One resident, Matt Southwell, said symbols like the battle flag do not belong on public property, but in museums and textbooks.
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“These are where those symbols belong so they can be properly contextualized with all of the facts surrounding them,” he said. “It’s time to take a stand and do whatever it takes to take it down so that we can move forward.”
Former City Councilman Jimmy Dickens said Kennesaw is his home and he wants to see its elected officials turn their back on a past and a flag that symbolizes hatred.
“This is the right thing to do,” he said.
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Resident Debra Williams said the City Council would be breaking state law if it removed the flag.
“When you break the law, you are at that moment a criminal and immediately should be arrested,” she said, adding elected officials should not base their decisions on their likes and dislikes.
Easterling said the city has already been threatened with legal action by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Timothy Pilgrim, Georgia Division commander of the organization, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that its letter to Kennesaw informed the city that if it didn’t put the flag back up, “we’ll take appropriate legal action to get it restored.”
“If they do it, they are in blatant violation of the law,” Pilgrim of the removal.
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Councilman David Blinkhorn, who brought the issue up for discussion at last week's work session, said elected officials must follow through with the will of the people.
“When people rise up and make their voices heard, it’s the responsibility of those elected officials to listen and take action,” he said.
Councilman Chris Henderson said the flag distracts from the memorial’s purpose.
“Today, we take a stand against hate by removing the symbol so commonly associated with it,” he said.
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