Confederate monuments have been a point of contention in America for decades, but a series of events since 2015 have stoked the most recent movement calling for their removal. In 2015, Dylann Roof murdered Black churchgoers at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Because Roof was seemingly motivated and emboldened by Confederate ideology, many focused their attention on removing the more than 700 Confederate monuments throughout the country. Then, in August 2017, a large white nationalist rally assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park. The demonstrations turned violent when a white nationalist barreled his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring nineteen more. Finally, in May 2020, the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a White police officer catapulted the removal movement to a peak.
In response to these events, some states swiftly removed Confederate monuments from their public spaces, but in 2019, Georgia bolstered its monument-protection laws, tightening restrictions on local control by outright barring monument removal. This leaves localities—the ones who actually own much of the public property on which these monuments sit—without recourse. Several Georgia localities have nonetheless removed Confederate monuments from their grounds, but since these actions conflict directly with Georgia state law, they are vulnerable to litigation.
Monuments maintained in public spaces are means of expression that necessarily convey political narratives. Thus, by prohibiting monument removal, Georgia has prevented its localities from speaking their own narratives. Further, preemptively precluding monument removal undermines community engagement and erases any possibility of democratic consensus building.
To remedy this problem, this Note argues that Georgia should amend its monument-protection laws to return the power to local communities by affording them myriad options—including contextualization, removal, and destruction—to address their Confederate monuments. This Note proposes that Georgia adopt a monument-protection statute similar to Virginia’s monument-protection statute that provides a democratic forum for discussion and ultimately allows localities to manage their own public spaces.
"Close the Sores of War": Why Georgia Needs New Legislation to Address Its Confederate Monuments,
Ga. St. U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://readingroom.law.gsu.edu/gsulr/vol38/iss2/14