Debate over Decatur Confederate monument heads to City Hall

Emotions were running high Monday night at the Decatur City Council meeting as folks spoke out against and in support of the Confederate monument on the Decatur square.

Those supporting the removal, who represented the majority of speakers, said they are aware that the city cannot vote to remove the monument and are asking for the city council members to publicly support their request that DeKalb County remove this monument.

“Monuments are not history they’re symbols and they're important symbols because they show what we honor and what we revere and to keep this symbol up, it shows that we are honoring and revering the people who fought for slavery,” said Sara Patenaude, a historian who helps represent one of the more than 2,000 people who have signed a local online petition to advocate for its removal and relocation into a museum.

There is also a petition supporting the Confederate monument called "The Lost Cause" that has received more than 1,000 signatures.  Both petitions were presented to the city council Monday evening.

“You can’t judge people from yesterday by today’s standards so we have to look at everything as they saw it, not as we see things today because things were different,” said John Murlin who supports keeping the Confederate monument.

Georgia State professors said the monument was erected in 1908, the year the Georgia legislature ratified an amendment, preventing African Americans from voting.

“I believe that leaving it in place allows the obelisk to be used as a source of discussion and having it remain in place does not as others have claimed inherently celebrate the causes for which it was erected,”  said one woman who addressed the city council in favor of keeping the memorial.

Those who support the removal believe it represents hate and oppression and believe its presence signifies that it is celebrated.

“We consider this community to be one that welcomes all and that treats all people with dignity and respect and we feel that; that statue runs counter,” said Kai Issa who supports the removal of Confederate monument. “I do not think it should have such a prominent place in our community.”

Under Georgia state law, “No publicly owned monument honoring Confederate soldiers shall be relocated, removed or altered in any fashion.”

Residents requesting the removal of the Confederate monument will present their case to the DeKalb County Commission Tuesday.