Mayor-elect says eradicating accomplice symbols ‘not a precedence’; retired vet desires voters to resolve

Democratic Mayor-elect Garnett Johnson mentioned forward of final week’s election that eradicating accomplice monuments weren’t a precedence.

Like many cities across the nation, Augusta, Georgia’s downtown incorporates a reminder of its accomplice previous. A 76-foot tall memorial, set in place by the Women Memorial Affiliation of Augusta in 1877, is a stark reminder of the persistence of photos that assist the nation’s a whole bunch of years of slavery. 

The Augusta management hasn’t but made its elimination a precedence, regardless of a activity power created by outgoing Mayor Hardie Davis in 2020 within the wake of George Floyd’s demise, The Augusta Chronicle experiences. The Mayor’s Activity Power on Accomplice Monuments, Avenue Names and Landmarks nonetheless hasn’t acted on the monuments, together with the downtown obelisk. Although the fee really helpful shifting or eradicating the monuments final September, in addition they agreed to a moratorium on additional dialogue till this month. 

Augusta Mayor-elect Garnett Johnson cheers at his marketing campaign workplace as all precincts report the Augusta mayoral race final Tuesday, June 21. (Picture: Katie Goodale/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Democratic Mayor-elect Garnett Johnson, chosen by Augusta voters in final Tuesday’s election, mentioned forward of it that eradicating its accomplice monuments weren’t a precedence.

Metropolis Commissioner Ben Hasan mentioned the delay is as a result of town is contemplating bids for a $30 million renovation mission that features the Broad Avenue location of the biggest monument, per the report. Although Augusta at the moment solely has a bid in for one a part of the mission, all bids ought to be submitted by the tip of this yr. 

However advocates say voters ought to have the final phrase on whether or not the monuments ought to be eliminated. Two of them — a retired Military command sergeant main and a historian from Paine School, an HBCU positioned in Augusta — got here ahead final week to deal with metropolis commissioners in regards to the challenge.  

Employees put together to take away the statue of Accomplice Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Va. on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, greater than 130 years after it was erected. It was the biggest accomplice statue remaining in america. (Picture: Jack Gruber/USA TODAY by way of Imagn Content material Companies, LLC)

“Make it a binding query on the November poll,” Sgt. Maj. Michael Gallucci informed commissioners at a gathering Tuesday, sustaining that accomplice monuments symbolize the hassle to maintain Black Individuals in bondage. He says whereas there’s a state legislation stopping the motion of monuments besides to related locations of “visibility,” different Georgia counties have executed so with out reprisal. As there’s no current chain of possession of the downtown obelisk, that makes it a moot level anyway.

“No data exist exhibiting metropolis or county possession, making it privately-owned, not public and arguably then not topic to Georgia legislation,” Gallucci mentioned. He added that the group who initially erected the statue did so by clinging to a false premise that was “erasing the true impact of slavery. They have been the faux information of their time.” 

Paine School historian Mallory Millender, who was on the duty power, says eradicating the monuments — as has been executed across the state and the nation — ought to proceed to be a precedence in Augusta. The duty power really helpful new monuments be constructed to pay homage to those that superior race relations. 

One of many people referenced is accomplice veteran George Williams Walker, the second president of Paine School. He’s credited with conserving Paine a liberal arts faculty as an alternative of an industrial one, the extra fashionable focus for HBCU schooling on the time. 

“The institution and growth of Paine School was the primary nice step in interracial cooperation in our beloved southland,” Walker mentioned in a 1908 speech, in keeping with the report. 

Millender says Walker’s legacy and that of John Welsey Gilbert, the primary graduate of Paine School and its first Black professor, are those that ought to be highlighted. 

“We urge you to take away the monuments that glorify man’s inhumanity to man,” he mentioned, “and of their stead, erect monuments to folks together with Dr. Walker, who devoted their lives to human uplift and racial concord.”

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