Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose speaking in a 2015 press conference calling for the removal of all symbols of the Confederacy from state-owned and operated buildings. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Civil rights groups to rally in Piedmont Park ahead of Super Bowl

A coalition of civil rights groups is using the visibility brought by the Super Bowl to stage a rally Feb. 2 to call national attention to continuing racial inequality in the state.

Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP, said the rally will highlight voting issues, income inequality and “Georgia’s allegiance to the Confederate States of America instead of the United States of America.”

That last part refers to the state’s numerous Confederate memorials and monuments, including the largest — the massive granite carving of Confederate leaders on the face of Stone Mountain. Rose advocates removing the carving and said he’s already given interviews to foreign journalists “astounded that Georgia would have something like Stone Mountain.”

“The whole purpose of these monuments is to reinforce and normalize white supremacy,” he said. “That’s why so many are erected in front of courthouses.”

The Confederate themed “Peace Monument” in Piedmont park was vandalized following an August 13, 2017, march. The NAACP and other civil rights groups plan to hold a rally in the park Feb. 2 to highlight issues, including Georgia’s numerous Confederate monuments. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The rally will be held at noon at Oak Hill in Piedmont Park and is sponsored by the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center and activist groups Alliance for Black Lives and Georgia Alliance for Social Justice.

On Friday, the Atlanta NAACP also released a statement condemning the appointment of Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, as chairman of the House Retirement Committee. Benton has been criticized over the last several years for statements justifying the activities of the Ku Klux Klan and for introducing legislation glorifying the Confederacy and Confederate leaders.

The statement compares Benton to U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who lost his Congressional committee assignments following comments challenging whether the terms white supremacy and white nationalism are “offensive.”

“Like King, Benton has a long history of support for racist institutions and white supremacy,” the NAACP statement said. “Like Rep. King, Benton, or any other elected official who holds to such racist ideology, should be stripped of all his committee assignments, because he or she should not be in a position to affect the policies that govern our state and its more than 3 million African-American residents.”

Neither Benton nor Georgia House spokesman Kaleb McMichen responded to a request for comment. Last week, McMichen defended the appointment of Benton as a “second chance” offered by House Speaker David Ralston.

In a House press release, Benton thanked Ralston.

“I appreciate Speaker Ralston’s confidence in me to appoint me to chair this very important committee, which looks after billions of dollars in state retirement system funds,” he said. “I look forward to serving on this committee to continue to work for our retired citizens across Georgia.”

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