Well the story has its beginnings last week. An up and coming newspaper called Decaturish shared an awful story on August 18, 2017 about the Decatur monument being smeared in feces. Not many news papers picked up this story but I have seen a pattern to this story. the story does not begin here but rather early in August when a group of masked people attacked the Peace Monument in Atlanta. This started a chain reaction state wide. Suddenly every city was reviewing its Confederate Monuments like Macon, Columbus, Covington, Dalton, Augusta and Gainesville. They all had the same message that the monuments were all celebrating slavery. they were established during the Jim Crow era and all need to be demolished or moved to a museum.
Understanding that the events of Charlottesville, Virginia is a tragedy and people need to be sensitive to that. The Dylan Roof’s of the world need to be incarcerated and pay the price for their crimes. However tearing down history is not going solve any of that. it will simply create more of the same problems. You can say two wrongs don’t make a right. You can quote Edmund Burke and say, ” Those who don’t learn from history or doomed to repeat it. ” Nonetheless this is the new fad. A new group of petulant children want to remove monuments dedicated for the purpose of honoring veterans. We know it won’t stop there. Once the demands are met then whatever floats their hearts desire. the Founding Fathers perhaps. Andrew Jackson on a $20 dollar bill, Button Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration of independence, and at one time owner of 14 slaves. I dread sharing the information about Gwinnett for fear the these thugs who attacked the Peace Monument will show up in Gwinnett demanding something.
Lets focus on the Decatur Monument. I mentioned above the monument had feces smeared on it. I assume it was animal feces. The City of Decatur simply washed off the monument. No charges were filed but I think it was obvious who did it being the same group who posted on a Facebook event page. The article in the Decaurish Paper was not published till August 18th, 2017 but the Facebook posts we published on August 16th, 2017. On the Facebook event post, a member of their group said he wanted to pull down the monument with a pickup truck with straps and chains. I reported this to the Decatur Police Via Facebook but to no avail. Now Lets look at the first photo.
Notice in the photo you see a wet spot on the monument. I do not doubt that the person who took this photo took it not long after the feces was washed off the monument. Also if the city cleaned of the monument a political pin like the one shown would have been washed away or tossed as well. I believe the person taking the picture put the pin there. I also believe the same person reported the poo smearing of the monument to the newspaper used the narrative to announce their petition to remove the monument and announce a meeting to discuss the situation around the monument. All of which was free publicity for the detractors. A politician once said, let no good crisis go wasted. Especially if you create that crisis yourself.
Focusing on the history of the monument. , Here the monument was commemorated on April 25, 1908. Notice the contributions to the monument included 1000 school children. They had over two thousand people contribute to the monument. The monument is a memorial to the heroes of the sixties. No mention of slavery, no celebration of slavery, no mention of Jim Crow. The article did mention the time it took to get this monument. Also it was alluded to the fact the monument was damaged which cause some excitement in Decatur after hearing the loud crash throughout town during its installation. Excitement was high and three of DeKalb’s living veterans took part in the ceremony. I would reveal their names until I realized one of them had a road and a elementary school named for them. but again this is over a century old piece of Decatur’s history.
Pictured above is a post card perhaps in the 1930’s that shows the monument in front of the courthouse. if you travel to Decatur’s square you will see the landscape has greatly changed. A Marta station is nearby. A grassy area park area is shrouded by decorated walls. A gazebo and between city hall and another government annex you will see cafes, a Waffle House and many places where you can get liquid libations. In older times Decatur was a dry county but now you can step out of court or a town hall meeting and fill up the tank with any variety of liquor. The city makes money off alcohol serving permits making sure all employees are at least 19 years of age charging about $65 dollars for the permit. While public drunkenness is considered a crime I cant help but wonder of they allow people to vote in such a condition. The large historic courthouse is still there and houses the Decatur Museum. It has changed sine I last visited and I mast say I did not get a polite reception when I mentioned the monument.
Continuing with current events on August 21, 2017, the same day as the famed eclipse, I travelled to Decatur. There was to be a public discussion of the monuments and I wanted to speak on behalf of the monument. If there is a testament to how small towns have changed Decatur is it. Be forewarned, to travel in Decatur you have to pay to park near the square. After 6PM however you wont be charge to park in the metered areas.
DISCLAIMER: I make no guarantee about parking in Decatur, traveler beware. Don’t get ticketed assuming anything. Call first and make absolutely sure.
I parked and went to the council meeting early mainly because it was hot and I prefer air conditioning. The city council had a business meeting prior to the public input session one hour later at 7PM. I listed to a presenter talk about possible changes to the city. Discussion of property taxes and occupancy rates. Different councilmen and mayors responded to how other counties were handling things. The presenter seemed convinced that Roswell was the closest model.
What they were discussing was housing and development in the area. I thought to myself, after looking at what I had seen and what I was hearing is that Decatur was becoming a lot like another place I have not visited yet, Atlantic Station. From my understanding, the council was deciding on how to bill newcomers based on the number of occupants or another demographic. I come from a large family myself. At one time we had eight people living in a mobile home together. Today I have at least six people living together and all working to get by. If anyone should be concerned about racism or discrimination this might have been the real meeting to attend. I am not making any accusations here but like Atlantic Station many residents felt disenfranchised. It was felt that Atlanta was pricing out certain poorer folks for perhaps higher paying clientele. People who uses low income housing and trailer trash like myself may not be welcome or can even afford to live here. I digress, history destruction is the flavor of the year so on with the council meeting.
Several people swapped back and forth at the council meeting. A student spoke about the monument removal and he had with him over 2,000 signatures. Another person spoke in favor the monument and he was the students teacher. The person in the epicenter of most of this story spoke next. This person created the Facebook event page. She explained that the meeting did not come to any collusion. They either wanted the monument destroyed or buried. So much for a peaceful resolution. I made it a point to speak directly after this person. I handed in my petition supporting the monument. I had just 833 signatures because I had just 3 days to collect them after hearing of the events surrounding the monument. I was given only 5 minutes to speak. I pointed out about he smearing of feces on the monument and reminded the council folk that when these protestors get angry they might fling poo on you. I mentioned I was part of a veterans organization wanting to protect the monument and would love to open a dialogue with them. After my 5 minutes I left. A reporter wanted to talk with me and I refused. I went on home after a long, drawn out evening.
The Decatur City council had made the same statement they had made to the newspaper before. the monument was owned by DeKalb county and not necessarily by the City of Decatur. that was confusing to say the least. I don’t thing I understand DeKalb very well in as far as their government works. Several commissioners have drawn up south DeKalb but their districts do not include Decatur, Lithonia, Dunwoody and the other like cities in the area. So it was hard to pick who to respond to. Another monument in DeKalb County is of Course the largest Confederate memorial in the State, Stone Mountain. Recently Governor Deal announced he was going to appoint the DeKalb CEO Michael L Thurmond to the Stone Mountain Commission. With several recent attempts to changed Stone Mountain and the threat of a governors candidate Stacey Abrahams to blast the carving off its going to be an uphill battle.
Before I close this post I want to share my petition to save the DeKalb County Monument.
Thank you for your support in this matter.