A small group of protesters rallies at the site of the annual convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on Saturday in Atlanta. (Photo by Michael E. Kanell/AJC)

LOCAL IN-DEPTH | Protest against Confederate group: decrying monuments

About 30 demonstrators raised picket signs and voices Saturday afternoon along Clairmont Road to protest the annual convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Organized by several local organizations, the protesters said they were angry about the 125-year-old group’s longstanding support for public monuments that honor the memory of soldiers who fought against U.S. troops during the Civil War.

“What they are doing is normalizing the evil of slavery and the evil of racism,” said Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP. “They couch it under ‘respect for the dead,’ but it’s never about that, it is about subjugating the living.”

Protesters were blocked by police from entering the complex that includes the Marriott Atlanta Northeast, site of the convention. Reporters were likewise prevented from entering the area.

Representatives of the United Daughters did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

However, in a post on the web, the organization’s president said the group “totally denounces any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy,” and is “saddened that some people find anything connected with the Confederacy to be offensive.”

United Daughters of the Confederacy is based in Richmond. Its headquarters are located on a street named for tennis great Arthur Ashe, who was black. The steet crosses Monument Avenue, which is home to numerous Confederate statues.

Along Clairmont Saturday, one lone counterprotester did provide support to United Daughters.

“The Confederate dead have the same status as Union war dead,” said Jenna Bernstein, who engaged several protesters in shouting matches. “Slavery was a legal economic institution, but it’s over. We should move on.”

Lone counterprotester Jenna Bernstein (foreground) gets in a shouting match with Richard Rose, president of the NAACP's Atlanta branch, at a rally against the United Daughters of the Confederacy held Saturday, November 9, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo: Michael E. Kanell/AJC)

But “honoring” the Confederacy means ignoring its goals, argued Grace Hawkins, who came from her Stone Mountain home to protest. “If they want to come together as a group, they should present a program to repair the evil that slavery did.”

About a dozen law enforcement officers from Chamblee and Brookhaven stood between the protesters and the complex. More police were stationed at other entrances to the complex.

In recent years, efforts to either remove or re-label Confederate monuments have gained traction. Georgia, part of the Confederacy and a battlefield during the civil rights struggles, has a Confederate presence in many places, including Decatur.

And the highest profile monument, the carvings on Stone Mountain, has likewise drawn criticism.

While turnout for the protest was modest, NAACP’s Rose said he was not discouraged. “It is worth it to make a statement.”

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