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City of Milledgeville discussing possible move of Confederate statue

Mayor Mary Parham Copelan says they're speaking with city attorneys on how to handle the situation.

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Folks in Milledgeville are speaking out for and against moving a downtown confederate monument.

Last year, someone vandalized the statue, spray-painting its hands and face black. That's when Baldwin County’s chapter of the NAACP approached city leaders about moving the statue.

Now, City Council is asking for the public's opinion.

“It’s a sore here for the African Americans that live here in Baldwin County,” Baldwin County NAACP chapter president, Cynthia Ward Edwards said. 

She says they feel that the statues were initially placed there as a form of intimidation of the black community. 

“They gradually started putting up statues and figures to represent a cause that lost the Civil War,” Ward Edwards said. “It’s a way of symbolizing that the social order remains in line with the Confederacy.”

Ward Edwards says the Confederacy fought on the side of the war that supported slavery, and she says their community doesn’t need a reminder of that.

She says it’s also best for the wellbeing of the monument itself. 

“The statues have been damaged before by a vehicle, as well as they've been painted black. So, from my understanding, the statue is supposed to be in a safe place. So, even with those factors added in, it's not a safe place for those statues to be,” Ward Edwards said.

Jessica McQuain was one of several NAACP members who spoke to Milledgeville's City Council Tuesday night. She says she wanted to acknowledge the hurtful things her ancestors may have taken part in.

"For me, the chance to be active in these causes is really a way to try to work towards what's right,” she says. “When we know better, we do better.”

McQuain says the statue should be moved because of why it was built: to perpetuate Jim Crow.  She says the statue was originally in front of the old courthouse downtown. 

"These statues went up in places like that at a time where people were trying to send a message that our legal system, our financial system were white people's domain. Those statues were trying to intimidate people,” McQuain said.

However, Martin O’Toole, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says differently. 

"Naturally, we would be opposed to any removal that was intended to hide or conceal the monument,” he said.

O'Toole says the statue is over 100 years old and isn't hurting anyone.

"Monuments like this were erected all across the South as memorial to those lost in battle. They're our ancestors and we want to remember them, and honor them," he said.

Mayor Mary Parham Copelan says this isn’t the first time folks have brought this issue to city council. 

“This is a state statute type limitation and we’re still waiting on our council to advise us on how to handle this situation,” she said.

Parham Copelan says if the statue is able to be moved, state law says it must be in a place that's easily accessible and highly visible. It also cannot be placed in a museum or cemetery unless it was originally placed there.  

"What I do believe in is making sure that the monument is protected and not being vandalized. At the same token, I'm making sure that I keep the city of Milledgeville- Baldwin County safe,” Parham Copelan said.

O'Toole says the Daughters of the Confederacy owns the statue. 

“From the statewide view point, we defer to the local members. So, if the Milledgeville Chapter decides that there's a place where they'd be satisfied with it, that'll be fine with us. If they move it as the NAACP and according to news reports suggested, to a museum or a cemetery, that's against the law and they will be sued for it,” he said.

Mayor Parham Copelan says they're consulting with a city attorney that helped move Macon's confederate statue to a nearby cemetery.

She says if it can be moved, the city council will discuss it again. 

Parham Copelan says she doesn't know when that will be, but it could be as soon as 30-40 days. 

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