Lawmakers target Stone Mountain, Confederate monuments

Erica Breig holds a sign up in front of the Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain Park during a peaceful demonstration and march in Stone Mountain, Georgia, June 16. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Stone Mountain, GA — Georgia lawmakers filed a trio of new bills that would prohibit Confederate monuments across the state, with a focus on the world’s largest such memorial — the massive granite carving of rebel leaders at Stone Mountain Park.

“It is not a matter of if they’ll come down, it’s a matter of when,” said state Rep. Billy Mitchell at a Feb. 3 press conference at the state Capitol. “The time when Confederate memorials seemed appropriate has long passed, not only in this state but in this country.”

House Bills 237 and 238 were filed by Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, a Democrat from Snellville. The bills would remove the legal protections for Confederate monuments and prohibit the display of “monuments, memorials, plaques, markers or memorabilia related to the Confederate States of America, slave owners, or persons advocating for slavery on public property.” Exceptions would be made for museums and Civil War battlefields.

Hutchinson noted the 1911 lynching of a Black man named Charlie Hale outside the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville.

“Today, if you go to that square, there is nothing about Charlie Hale,” she said. “But 10 feet away from where he was lynched, there is a Confederate monument. This is an ultimately disrespectful situation that I do not wish on my constituents, I do not wish on children who walk by, and it has to be explained what happened here.”

“We’ve been insulted for far too long, and this is why I have introduced these bills this year. I introduced them last year, and I will keep introducing them until they’re passed,” she added.

Mitchell, a Democrat from Stone Mountain, filed House Bill 277 to remove language in state law that the Stone Mountain Memorial Association claimed required it to maintain — and barred it from removing — Confederate imagery.

“This bill will simply give the Memorial Association the authority to change from that policy,” Mitchell said. “They will be able to take down Confederate memorials and flags and to stop maintaining the sculpture that is on the granite rock there.”

SMMA CEO Bill Stephens told the AJC in January that current state law keeps them from making such changes. His statement was in response to the Stone Mountain Action Coalition’s demand that Confederate flags be removed from the park before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 30. They noted the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that took place on Jan. 6.

“These are the same Confederate flags that the terrorists flew and by the same hate groups that continue to see Stone Mountain Park as a sacred place and use it for demonstrations,” the group wrote in a Jan. 12 email to supporters.

Dennis Collard, a founding member of SMAC, hailed the introduction of Hutchinson and Mitchell’s bills at the Feb. 3 press conference.

“These bills, when signed by Gov. Kemp, will allow us to begin the work that we must do to liberate Stone Mountain Park from the Confederacy,” he said.

“The time for the people of Georgia to reclaim their park has come,” he added.

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