MACON, Ga. — Will it stay or will it go? That's been the debate surrounding the two Confederate monuments that have stood in downtown Macon for over a century.
The issue was taken up in the Macon-Bibb County commission chambers, the streets of downtown, and even courtrooms over the last several years.
Now, the Sons of Confederate Veterans say crews will begin to move the two monuments, beginning with the Cotton Avenue statue at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Once crews are done taking down that statue, they'll begin to move a second monument on Poplar Street, known as the "Women of the South."
Both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy say they compromised with the county.
"Our biggest concern is that the monuments are put in a respectful place, a protected place, a visible place that people can still enjoy the monuments," Nickles said.
Both monuments will soon reside in Whittle Park outside Rose Hill Cemetery where hundreds of confederates are buried.
The move comes after Macon-Bibb Commission approved plans in July 2020 to move the statues, place a roundabout at Poplar Street, and redesign Cotton Avenue--turning it into a plaza with open green space.
Alex Morrison with the Urban Development Authority says moving the statues out of downtown sends a message to the community.
"That this should be a space about everyone coming together and communicating the city Macon has become and what it is now. That this is a place for everyone," Morrison said.
Sons of Confederate Veterans Treasurer Johnny Nickles says the monuments being removed are "historical markers."
"This is our history, all of our history. It doesn't matter if you're on the side of the South or against it, whatever. This is our history," Nickles said. "It has nothing to do with slavery. It doesn't have anything to do with white supremacy like some people say it does."
Nickles says based on newspaper clippings he's read from around when the Cotton Avenue statue was dedicated, they were for "honorable" causes-- standing as memorials for Confederates who were killed, particularly those who were buried in unknown or unmarked graves.
"To allow the families then who didn't know where their sons were buried... this was his grave marker," Nickles said pointing to the Cotton Avenue monument.
He says the "Women of the South" monument on Poplar Street is to honor women who supported Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
But Nickels says because the community does not see eye-to-eye on what the monuments symbolize, the group decided to cooperate.
13WMAZ asked if Cotton Avenue is welcoming to everyone with the monument still standing. Nickles had this to say-- "It is to me, but I can understand why some people might think otherwise. That's where the difference comes in, and that's the reason we're moving the monument," Nickles said.
Macon-Bibb says no county money will be used to remove the monuments. County spokesperson Chris Floore says private groups and donors raised $160,000 through the Community Foundation of Central Georgia to relocate the two monuments.