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Macon leaders approve moving Confederate statues, other downtown improvements

The Confederate memorial on Cotton Avenue and 'Women of the South' obelisk will be moved to a park near Rose Hill Cemetery

MACON, Ga. — The Macon-Bibb County commission passed a resolution Tuesday night that would move two Confederate statues to a park near Rose Hill Cemetery, among other downtown improvements.

It passed in a 5-4 vote. The four commissioners who voted against the resolution were: Joe Allen, Mallory Jones, Scotty Shepherd, and Valerie Wynn.

Here’s a history of the resolution and more background on the plans:

Commissioner Virgil Watkins first introduced his proposal to proceed with the 2015 Macon Action Plan to redesign Cotton Avenue Park, the current site of the Confederate memorial, on July 7.

Watkins said the statue’s prominence downtown is embarrassing to explain.

Georgia law prohibits moving any publicly owned monument unless it’s needed for protection, preservation or interpretation. The code also makes an exemption if the relocation is necessary for construction projects.

If a monument is moved, it must be to a site of “similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county.” The law also says a monument can’t be moved to a “museum, cemetery or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such location.”

Watkins proposed for the statue to be removed within 30 days of the resolution being passed to protect people against potential injury or death in the event of an act of vandalism or destruction.

But Macon Mayor Robert Reichert proposed an amendment that would also relocate the ‘Women of the South’ obelisk across from the Government Center.

Reichert said his priority was to improve downtown, and that moving monuments was secondary.

The mayor’s amendment also adds a roundabout at First and Poplar, and includes improvements to Rosa Parks Square.

The three projects would cost an estimated $5 million dollars, with up to $2 million dollars in county funds potentially already available.

Commissioners voted 5-3 in favor of the mayor's three-step project last week -- sending it to the July 21 commission meeting – and Commissioner Watkins withdrew his original proposal.

Prior to the July 21 meeting, the Sons of the Confederacy sent a letter to the mayor and commissioners.

In it, they requested that the county not move the monument until a new site is prepared for it.

Unlike Watkins' resolution, Reichert's resolution did not provide a timetable from the statues to be moved. Instead, each phase would be triggered by a financial goal.

This report includes contributions from Liz Fabian as seen in the previous coverage below:

Macon mayor plans to remove Confederate monuments for downtown improvements

Commission considers relocating Confederate statue in downtown Macon

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