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County commissioners vote to remove controversial Confederate monument, put it in storage

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    GWINNETT COUNTY, Georgia (Gwinnett Daily Post) — A controversial Confederate monument that has stood on the grounds of the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse for nearly 30 years is coming down.

County commissioners voted to remove the monument and put it in storage — officially to ensure its preservation during a legal battle — on Tuesday afternoon. It’s a legal maneuver to get the monument off the Lawrenceville Square while getting around a state law designed to protect Confederate monuments and keep them in place by saying incidents of vandalism in the last year have warranted steps to protect the marker.

“While Georgia law generally prohibits publicly-owned monuments from being removed or relocated, it does provide that appropriate measures can be taken for preservation and protection,” county attorney Mike Ludwiczak said.

The monument has been the source of controversy — and legal wrangling — for months. According to the monument itself, it was “presented” to the county in 1993 by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Ludwiczak said county commissioners voted in 1992 to accept the monument and approve its placement on the historic courthouse grounds.

“A Confederate monument committee raised the funds to purchase and erect the monument along the West Pike Street side of the square in 1993,” the county attorney said. “Private parties also paid to have the monument repaired and re-established in 2010.”

Commissioner Kirkland Carden circulated a petition calling for the monument’s removal last summer when he was still just a candidate for a seat on the Board of Commissioners.

Solicitor General Brian Whiteside sued the county commission to get a judge to declare the monument a public nuisance and order its removal after it was vandalized last summer. It’s a move similar to ones taken in Decatur and other cities around Georgia to take down Confederate monuments by declaring them a public nuisances.

The state and local chapters of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans have petitioned the court to allow them to intervene in the case and get an injunction to keep the monument in place in the long term, however.

There is now a debate in the court about who owns the monument.

“The judge in the pending lawsuit has ordered the parties to provide evidence as to whether the monument is owned by the county or, in the alternative, is privately owned, an issue that will likely determine the future location of the monument,” Ludwiczak said.

In the meantime, the monument was vandalized for a second time on Thanksgiving Day, according to the commission’s resolution.

There have been bipartisan calls for the monument’s removal. The Lawrenceville City Council and the Gwinnett County Historic Restoration and Preservation Board have also called for it to be removed from the old courthouse’s grounds.

The historic courthouse is at the heart of the Lawrenceville Square and its grounds are a county-owned park site.

Proponents of the monument’s removal have also cited some of the Lawrenceville Square’s history as part of their argument for why the monument should not be there. At least one African-American man was lynched just a few yards from where the Confederate monument stands.

“Confederate memorials are intended to intimidate and exclude African Americans,” the Alliance for Black Lives, a group led by Gwinnett school board member Tarece Johnson, said in a statement issued hours before the vote on Tuesday. “They signal that public spaces are reserved for white people only, and that the only heritage that matters is white people’s heritage.

“The Lawrenceville Confederate memorial is especially offensive because it is located at the site where an African American man, Charles Hale, was lynched in 1911.”

After the vote was taken, commissioners heard from both supporters of the removal of the monument as well as opponents of the move.

“The (Gwinnett county) logo embodies our multicultural interrelated and intertwined community,” United Ebony Society of Gwinnett President Marlene Taylor-Crawford said. “We certainly cannot strive to accomplish this if we continue to have the Confederate monument, ‘Lest We Forget,’ outside the historic courthouse in Lawrenceville. This monument, and other Confederate monuments and symbols represents slavery, oppression, racism, hatred, lynching and everything else that corrodes our country.”

Lawrenceville resident Shirley Ice questioned why removing it was necessary, however, and said she did not find it to be offensive.

“Would you like someone to dig up a monument, or knock down a monument to your family or your ancestors,” Ice asked. “Are we trying to erase history just to show that we can do it? Do we think this is the right path to take at the beginning of a new year and a new administration? Is this the way to unity? With all respect, don’t we owe respect and consideration to all of our residents in the county?”

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