The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a civil suit Monday against the Athens-Clarke County government to block the removal of a Confederate monument in downtown Athens.
The monument, which was constructed in the early 1870s, was moved to its current location at the intersection of College Avenue and Broad Street in 1912. It lists the names of Confederate soldiers from Clarke County who died in the Civil War.
Amid protests against police brutality and calls for racial justice across the nation and in Athens, the ACC Mayor and Commission is trying to move the obelisk-like monument from where it currently stands.
Mayor Kelly Girtz ordered the county to look into relocating procedures on June 2. The county has to move the monument somewhere else — it can’t be destroyed or put into a museum under Georgia law. In its Tuesday meeting, the commission approved a motion for the monument to be moved to Timothy Place, citing pedestrian safety in the intersection. The motion will be voted on by the commission on June 25.
The suit was filed by the Athens post of the Sons of Confederate Veterans against the county government. It asks for an emergency temporary restraining order and permanent injunction that would prohibit the government from moving the monument from its current location.
The Confederate group says in the suit the government is in violation of Title 50 of the Georgia Code. Section 3 states that all publicly owned monuments, including those of the Confederacy, cannot be “relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion by any officer or agency.”
In 2019, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that amended the code to allow for the removal of monuments for construction purposes, which is the justification the government is using. The commission is considering a six-month closure of College Avenue between Clayton and Broad Streets to work on the intersection’s crosswalk. The monument would be permanently relocated to Timothy Place under the proposal.
“Any monument relocated for such purposes shall be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county or municipality in which the monument was originally located,” the amended state code says. “A monument shall not be relocated to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such location.”
The suit argues that the removal of the monument threatens the Sons of Confederate Veterans with “immediate and irreparable injury, for which monetary compensation would not alone be sufficient.”
The government must respond to the case summons before July 15.