Shelly Hutchinson.jpg

Shelly Hutchinson

As the nationwide debate continues over the displaying of Confederate monuments and the Confederate battle flag, a legislator from Gwinnett County is leading an effort at the state Capitol to get them banned from public spaces in Georgia.

State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, D-Snellville, has authored House Bill 1212, which would prohibit Confederate monuments, as well as statues of slave owners or individuals who advocated for slavery, from being displayed on public property — except in Civil War battlefields and museums.

The bill’s filing comes one year after the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation to protect those same monuments and make it harder for local communities to remove them.

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“These statues are not relics that the General Assembly has forgotten about — there is a statue to a Ku Klux Klan leader right outside the Gold Dome,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Just last year, Senate Bill 77 passed into law, providing Confederate monuments with even more protections than they had already. Georgia has done a better job protecting these racist statues than it has protecting the lives of its citizens.”

The bill was filed in the House Hopper on June 16 and has been assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee met Monday and Tuesday, but did not take the bill up.

There has been an increasing backlash against Confederate symbols in light of the ongoing protests over violence against African-Americans. NASCAR has banned the flying of the Confederate flag at its races, and a Confederate monument that stood in Decatur was removed last week.

A petition was also launched Friday calling on Gwinnett County leaders to remove a Confederate monument that was erected in 1993 on the grounds of the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse on the Lawrenceville Square. The historic courthouse grounds is a county-owned park site, and the monument is less than 10 yards away from the site of a 1911 lynching of an African-American man.

There also been calls to remove the statue of Gov. John B. Gordon from grounds of the state Capitol. The New Georgia Encyclopedia, which is a joint project of the University System of Georgia and the governor’s office states Gordon was “generally acknowledged as the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.”

Arguments against allowing the monuments to continue standing include assertions that Confederate symbols are racist symbols and that people who fought for Confederacy had taken up arms against the United States.

Proponents of the monuments have argued that they are a way of remembering southern heritage, but Hutchinson took umbrage at that argument.

“It is unconscionable that 155 years after the Civil War ended, some in our state’s government still cannot decide which side should be glorified,” Hutchinson said. “The Confederacy is not some lost cause to be admired and honored. It was a shameful chapter in our history where Georgia took up arms against the United States and defended the ownership of fellow human beings.

“The excuse that we need these monuments and statues to ‘remember history’ has worn thin. If the only reason people remember the Civil War is because of grandiose statues, then we clearly need to be allocating more of our budget to education.”

Since Senate Bill 77 was passed into law last year, there have been two high-profile, racially charged cases involving the deaths of African-American men in Georgia. They are among a series of deaths of African-Americans around the nation this year that have prompted protests across the U.S.

“Right now, this nation and this state are experiencing a long overdue demand for racial justice,” Hutchinson said. “There have been peaceful protests all across America — including dozens in Georgia — opening many people’s eyes to the injustices that African Americans have experienced at the hands of our own government.

“At many of these peaceful marches and rallies, advocates of racial equality stand in the shadows of statues glorifying the Confederacy and those who fought for slavery.”

Hutchinson’s co-sponsors on the bill include three other members of Gwinnett County’s legislative delegation: Reps. Dar’shun Kendrick, D-Lithonia; Karen Bennett, D-Stone Mountain; and Gregg Kennard, D-Lawrenceville.

Other co-sponsors on the bill include: Reps. James Beverly, D-Macon; Kim Schofield, D-Atlanta; and Derrick Jackson, D-Tyrone.

The bill faces an uphill battle since it was filed late in the 2020 legislative session, which only has about a week left. If the bill isn’t passed by both chambers of the General Assembly before the session ends, it will have to be re-filed in January, when the 2021-2022 legislative term begins.

“Confederate statues are not about history or heritage,” Hutchinson said. “They are symbols. Their display on state property symbolizes that we, as the state of Georgia, are willing to glorify the movement that fought for slavery and honor those who committed treason against the United States.

“While removing them will not erase 400 years of systemic oppression, it will send a message that Georgia no longer glorifies a shameful chapter of our past. It is time to take them down.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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(4) comments

jimbo1185

fine, let also remove statues from public land that do not reflect important events relevant to the public and statues of individuals who have never held elected public office.

MarvinGardens

I imagine this has very little chance of passing. What might get more support is to repeal SB 77, the law that forces communities to keep Confederate memorials that the community no longer wants. Decatur found a loophole in this law, but it requires getting a judge to declare the monument a public nuisance, which in turn requires the monument to be a target of repeat vandalism. So if an overwhelming majority in a community wants a Confederate monument removed, they currently have two options. One is to illegally tear it down. The other is to repeatedly vandalize it and then get a judge to declare it a public nuisance. Seems like a bad set of options. How about an orderly process for communities to remove these monuments if majorities want them removed?

GeorgiaPolitico

She filed separate legislation to repeal SB77, as well (HB1211). However, the problem is SB77 just added additional protections for Confederate monuments to what was already written in OCGA Chapter 3 Title 50. So even if SB77 is repealed, there's still obstacles to removing Confederate monuments because of the underlying law. HB1212 basically strips that language protecting Confederate monuments from OCGA C3 T50 and allows them to be removed. But I agree with you about a repeal of SB77 being more likely to pass.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20192020/HB/1211

MarvinGardens

Thanks!

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