Petition calls for removal of Confederate flag in Kennesaw

White nationalist demonstrators hold their ground as they clash with counter demonstrators in Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12, 2017.

Credit: Steve Helber

Credit: Steve Helber

White nationalist demonstrators hold their ground as they clash with counter demonstrators in Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12, 2017.

The sight of Confederate flags, which cause pain for some and pride for others, filled the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend when a rally by white supremacists turned deadly.

In the wake of that tragedy, area resident Reid Jones has started an online petition to remove the flag from downtown Kennesaw. By Tuesday afternoon the petition on had garnered nearly 1,000 signatures from metro Atlanta and beyond.

In downtown Kennesaw the flag flies at the corner of Main and Cherokee streets just outside the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History.

The Confederate flag hangs near a memorial to William Allen Fuller for his role in the Civil War’s great locomotive chase. (CONTRIBUTED BY THE COLLECTION OF COL. JAMES G. BOGLE)

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The petition says the flag is there to commemorate 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.

“This man is not someone worth idolization or commemoration,” the petition says. “ ... The removal of the Confederate flag from the public flag pole in downtown Kennesaw would serve as a message to all that our community strives for equality and unity, rather than disparity and division.”

But as with many aspects of the flag, it’s complicated.

Kennesaw Councilman Jimmy Dickens said city leaders, even if they could agree, can’t touch that flag.

“That area is a park, so the council has no authority to remove the flag,” Dickens said.

City spokeswoman Pam Davis said Georgia law protects the area, which contains monuments and plaques honoring veterans from various conflicts, and includes a 9/11 memorial.

Jones did not know the council had no power to take the flag down when he created the petition, Dickens said. The councilman said he doesn’t know when the land was turned into a park.

The space is listed on the city website as a neighborhood park.

Dickens, who became Kennesaw's first black council member in 2015, would like the flag to be taken down and placed in a museum.

“I understand on both sides. I understand how people want to represent and show their heritage with the flag and everything, but I also see the other side where people see the flag as intimidation,” he said. “... it reminds some people of a time that America wasn’t as great as it is now.”

Similar efforts have cropped up across metro Atlanta, including a growing petition to remove a Confederate monument from Decatur Square. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has also said he will consider renaming streets like Confederate Avenue in Grant Park.

In Kennesaw, folks have consistently come to the council for and against the flag, but this is the biggest effort to remove it that Dickens has seen since being in office.

“I can see the flag ... it’s not the flag that can hurt me; it’s people who have hatred in their heart for the color of my skin that I can’t see,” he said.

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The President had a heated exchange with reporters Tuesday about what happened in Charlottesville.