Petition grows to remove Decatur Confederate memorial

A view of the south side of the historic courthouse in downtown Decatur in 2004. (KEITH HADLEY/AJC file)

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A view of the south side of the historic courthouse in downtown Decatur in 2004. (KEITH HADLEY/AJC file)

After the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Decatur residents are renewing calls to remove a Confederate monument on the downtown square.

rapidly-growing online petition started Monday and had nearly 300 signatures before 5 p.m. Only hours earlier, protesters gathered for a vigil on the Decatur Square, to mourn for Charlottesville, where the "Unite the Right" rally turned violent.

The Charlottesville event was spawned by the removal of a Confederate memorial. In Decatur, the so-called “Lost Cause” monument’s presence didn’t deter the vigil.

"I don't care if there's some monument," local activist Meymoona Freeman shouted to the crowd of several hundred. "We made this square different."

Indeed, the city of Decatur is widely considered a haven for liberalism, where white residents plant “Black Lives Matter” signs in their yards. The New York Times once described the city as “The Brooklyn of Atlanta.”

The memorial, which sits near the historic DeKalb County Courthouse, rose in 1908. The county owns the monument and the historic courthouse, according to the city of Decatur.

A county spokesman wasn’t aware of the petition late Monday afternoon and wasn’t able to immediately comment.

The petition to remove the statue follows years of similar sentiment from residents and is intended to be delivered to city, county and state officials. It also proposes changing state law, which now prohibits removing such monuments.

“The statue refers to those listed on the monument as a ‘covenant keeping race’ and thus, the statue serves as a shrine to white supremacists like those we saw in Charlottesville,” the petition site says. “If the city of Decatur and DeKalb County truly value diversity, then both entities will listen to its citizens and fight vigorously for the removal of this monument.”

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