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Commission considers relocating Confederate statue in downtown Macon

The proposal is to move the statue from Cotton Avenue to Whittle Park because of a potential county expansion project

MACON, Ga. —

The Bibb County commission is considering moving a confederate statue from Cotton Avenue downtown to Whittle Park right outside of Rose Hill Cemetery.

According to the proposal sponsored by Commissioner Virgil Watkins, the county would need to move the monument so they can build a plaza on Cotton Avenue at Second Street. This is part of the Macon Action Plan that was created in 2015 to revitalize Macon’s urban core. Schlesinger said this has been on the drawing board for quite some time. 

"It actually called for the expansion of the square where the statue now stands, and with the expansion, it was implied that the statue was going to be moved," Schlesinger said. 

Schlesinger says people have to be sensitive to the negative message the statue can carry.

"For some, it’s southern pride and heritage. For others, it’s a racist symbol," Schlesinger said. 

Georgia law makes it difficult for local governments to move a statue from public property, but one of the exemptions is for preservation. The proposal,  prepared by the County Attorney’s office, says moving the monument would preserve it from vandalism and other damage.

The Georgia law also states that if a monument is moved, it has to be at "a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county."

"I think we all feel that in front of Rose Hill Cemetery, in a triangular park, is a place of equal prominence," Schlesinger said. 

Commissioner Mallory Jones says moving it to Whittle Park could make the statue more vulnerable. 

"I think it’s going to be more subject to being desecrated there because maybe it is more visible," Jones said. 

Jones says he is not in favor of relocating the statue, stating it would be erasing history. 

"If we’re going to take down every statue for every person who has ever committed a sin, guess what... there’s going to be one remaining and that’s Jesus Christ," Jones said. 

Jones says the other issue he has with the proposal is the county budget. 

"Our budget is stretched more than you can ever imagine because of COVID-19," Jones said. 

WMAZ reached out to Virgil Watkins for comment. He has not responded. 

Mayor Robert Reichert provided a statement to WMAZ in response to relocating the monument:

"This is a chance for us as a community to come together and place the monuments in a more suitable location, all while improving our Downtown Parks," Reichert said in a statement. 

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