LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- A suburban Atlanta county has removed a Confederate monument from its historic courthouse square and placed it into storage.
The monument, installed in 1993 in the Gwinnett County seat of Lawrenceville, was removed Thursday night after commissioners approved the step on Tuesday.
The face-down granite slabs were taken away on a truck as four police cars followed, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The monument was taken to an undisclosed location, where it will be held while the courts decide whether the county was justified in removing it under a state law that prohibits removal or relocation of Confederate monuments.
The law has an exception allowing monuments to be moved for “preservation, protection and interpretation.” Commissioners, with a newly elected Democratic majority in Gwinnett, contend that two acts of vandalism last year threaten the monument's safety.
Confederate symbols and monuments across the South were damaged or brought down last summer by demonstrators or removed by local authorities amid nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality.
A monument in DeKalb County was removed in June, while one in Henry County was removed in July. Other Georgia locales, such as Brunswick, are debating monument removal.
Kirkland Carden, a county commissioner who campaigned on the monument’s removal, said watching the statue come down felt like progress. It took less than two hours to dismantle the roughly 5,800-pound (2,600-kilogram) granite monument and lift the pieces with a crane.
“It will not remove 150 years of hatred and white supremacy, but it’s a damn good start,” Carden said. “This has no place in a modern-day Gwinnett County.”
The Lawrenceville monument has an early Confederate flag etched into it, as well as a picture of a Confederate soldier and bears the dates 1861-1865 and the notation “LEST WE FORGET.” It also has a quote from Winston Churchill.
Erected less than 30 years ago, the monument is relatively new. Many Confederate statues were put up decades after the Civil War, when states imposed new segregation laws and some historians depicted the South’s rebellion as a “Lost Cause” to defend states’ rights instead of slavery. But researchers have said monuments have continued to be erected since, with another burst in the Civil Rights era, and a steady trickle since then.
Gwinnett County Solicitor Brian Whiteside filed suit last summer to have the Lawrenceville monument taken down, calling it a “public nuisance.” Joe Bath, commander of the Lawrenceville camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he wished the county had let the lawsuit run its course. His group raised the money to install the statue, paid to maintain it, and had intervened in the lawsuit. Bath said he didn’t learn that the monument had been removed until Friday morning.
“These people, they have no concern for the law, no concern for humanity,” he said. “It’s funny how all of a sudden these things are hurtful. ... I never saw that monument as a threat to anything.”
History teacher Trey Hooper, a nearby resident who walked past as part of monument was being lifted, said he didn’t think a “country that seceded in a treasonous fashion” should be honored in a public space. Hooper said he thought soldiers’ lives could be respected and honored in other ways.