Sons of Confederate Veterans groups sue Gwinnett over monument removal

A crew works to remove a Confederate monument from its place on the grounds of the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on Feb. 4. The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 19 to remove the monument, overturning the decision of their predecessors from almost three decades before. In 1993, county commissioners gave permission for the monument to be installed at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. (Casey Sykes/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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A crew works to remove a Confederate monument from its place on the grounds of the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on Feb. 4. The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 19 to remove the monument, overturning the decision of their predecessors from almost three decades before. In 1993, county commissioners gave permission for the monument to be installed at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. (Casey Sykes/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

The Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the organization’s Camp No. 96 based in Lawrenceville, on Thursday sued Gwinnett County and each county commissioner almost exactly one year after a Confederate monument in Lawrenceville square was taken down.

The suit, filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court, alleges the statue’s removal was illegal, citing a state law that prohibits the removal or relocation of Confederate monuments except for their “preservation, protection and interpretation.”

“We simply ask that the law be followed and we believe that government officials don’t get to violate the law,” said T. Kyle King, the Peachtree City-based attorney representing the local Confederate descendants.

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Gwinnett County does not comment on pending litigation, a spokesperson said. Commissioners last year unanimously voted to remove the monument after two acts of vandalism, saying the its safety, and public safety, was in jeopardy.

The suit asks for the monument to be reinstated and for the county to pay three times the cost of replacement and any necessary repairs. It also seeks punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.

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The monument’s location has not been disclosed since it was carted off.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Major William E. Simmons Camp No. 96, based in Lawrenceville, paid for the monument’s installation in 1993, according to the lawsuit. It consists of granite slabs with carvings of an early Confederate flag, a Confederate soldier and inscriptions including the dates 1861-1865, a quote from Winston Churchill and “LEST WE FORGET.”

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Many celebrated the monument’s removal, calling it a symbol of hate.

King argued that World War II soldiers are celebrated even though the military at the time was segregated and ran Japanese internment camps.

“I think it’s clear that monuments like this one were put up not in tribute to slavery but in tribute to bravery,” he said. “Any time soldiers are sent into the field, there are some positive and negative motivations behind it.”