The next step for DeKalb County in its quest to remove a 110-year-old Confederate monument from Decatur Square will be decided by the county’s operations committee.
The committee – made up of DeKalb Commissioners Steve Bradshaw, as chairman, Nancy Jester and Mereda Davis Johnson – will discuss what to do at their next meeting on May 8.
Johnson, representing District 5, introduced a resolution to remove the Lost Cause monument that was passed by the Board of Commissioners in January, and has since suggested a taskforce be set up, involving DeKalb citizens, to explore options and make recommendations.
Commissioner Kathie Gannon, of Super District 6, has also suggested the monument be relocated to county property in a less prominent position, and that historic context be added to the display.
Those options will be considered by the committee, as the county received only two responses to a public request for information about moving the monument, which ran 60 days from Feb. 22 to April 23.
DeKalb chief operating officer Zachary Williams said one respondent suggested the monument be left in place, outside the historic DeKalb County courthouse, and turned into a veterans’ memorial.
The other respondent suggested the 30-foot-tall obelisk, erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, could be relocated to the Allatoona Pass Battlefield of the Red Top Mountain State Park in northwest Georgia.
Williams, speaking to commissioners during their Committee of the Whole meeting on May 1, said the county had contacted the director of the department of natural resources for state parks, who agreed to respond if the county provided a detailed request or submission.
Williams said another “potentially interested party” was sent a submission form by the county at the end of April.
“We’ve continued to solicit and seek ideas, although the RFI period has expired,” he said.
Prior to issuing an RFI, the county also contacted the Atlanta History Center, Oakland Cemetery, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Site, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Marietta Confederate Cemetery and Marietta National Cemetery, to gauge interest in the monument.
“We did not receive an interest from any of those, and overall we’ve not received a robust interest in doing anything as it relates to moving or contextualizing or anything else as it relates to the monument,” Williams said.
Rader, who represents District 2, suggested the operations committee take charge, to form a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners to consider.
“I think that it would be time now, given that we’ve solicited input from outside folks, that we then commit this to the operations committee, since they’re responsible for county property, to take those suggestions and maybe come up with our next step,” Rader said. “Because what I see us having to do is to go ahead and now resolve to take the next steps forward, whether it’s one of the suggestions from commissioners or a hybrid of those, depending on how the commission wants to move forward and it seems like that deliberation would best occur in the operations committee.”
In April, Johnson said the county would remove the monument no matter what, once it had explored its legal options.
“We have the authority to do so,” she said April 10. “I would like to put it in storage until we can get someone that can take it. We have to follow the law and the bureaucracy but we intend to remove the monument.”
The obelisk, which “glorifies and praises soldiers of the Confederacy,” has become a contentious issue for thousands in the community who have signed petitions for and against its removal.
Hundreds of people have also marched against the monument and held vigils calling for it to be taken away from downtown Decatur.
Opponents of the Jim Crow-era obelisk say it is inappropriate to have a monument, which was created to intimidate people of color, in a prominent position at the county’s seat of justice and administration.
They point out the monument’s installation in Decatur Square came on the heels of the bloody Atlanta race riot of 1906, when armed white mobs attacked black people, killing more than 25 and injuring more than 90.
Those who prefer the monument to stay in situ say it is an important reminder of history, and that more information should be installed around the structure for historic context.