ROME,Ga. - The future of Rome’s confederate statue honoring the man who is believed to be the first grand wizard of the KKK is up in the air after thousands of people discussed what should come of it at a meeting Friday.
That meeting was just a conversation.
The state rules on local statues, not the city, but the mayor told FOX 5’s Alex Whittler there are other ways he plans to honor people of color near the monument, that don’t require the state’s approval.
“Black people live on one side, white people live on the other side,” Malcom Williams, who was born and raised in Rome said.
Williams said he often feels the city is split in two.
He said that’s all he can think about as he looks up at the pillar that sits just below the Myrtle Hill Cemetery in the northwest Georgia city.
At the top of the slab, stands a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a confederate general, known as the first grand wizard of the KKK.
“He’s facing the black neighborhood,” Williams said, noting the direction the statue faces.
Mayor Collins says that’s why Friday’s conversation about what will become of the confederate monument was so productive.
“We can begin to recognize the black figures who have done such great work in our community,” he said.
Collins and members of a committee used Friday’s meeting as an opportunity to present the idea of erecting more monuments here.
He says they’ll add context to the confederate symbols and pay homage to minority leaders who’ve championed for equality.
Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition to keep the Confederate monument as is. Williams says he’s heard that argument and hopes those across the aisle hear his.
“They see their history of how they fought for the civil war and we see our history of how our ancestors died by the confederate flag,” Williams said.
Removing the monuments, Williams said, is complicated.
“It’s history that teaches us the past so that it won’t happen again,” he said. “I’m torn.”
Mayor Collins tells FOX 5’s Alex Whittler he believes he has enough support for his plan to add monuments of color that within the next 90 days the city will discuss which leaders will be recognized.