by Maya Martin
Photos by Alex Brown, ’20
On the night of June 18, construction workers began the work of removing a large obelisk Confederate monument from Decatur Square with a crane.
This followed weeks of Black Lives Matter protests led by Syracuse University grad Tayla Myree and Decatur High School students, and activists from Georgia State, the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, and the Anti-Racist Coalition for Decatur in response to the death of George Floyd. In photos from the protest on June 3, activists in front of the monument clothed all in black raise their fists to the air. Signs read, “ACAB,” “Stop Killing Us,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Alex Brown, a recent alumna of Agnes Scott College and an assistant editor for Decaturish, remembered Black activists and high school students who described the monument as an intimidating symbol. “People talked about growing up in Decatur and going on field trips where they’d have to walk past it in the square,” she remembered. “Like, ‘what is this and why is it here?’”
The original text of the monument, erected in 1908 by the Daughters of the Confederacy, reads, “Erected by the men and women and children of Dekalb County, to the memory of the soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy, of whose virtues in peace and in war we are witnesses, to the end that justice may be done and that the truth perish not.”
However, Brown reported that in the weeks of protest leading up to the removal, “people were papering the monument with their signs and stretching duct tape over the words and writing in sharpie.”
Photo by Alex Brown, ‘20
Photo by Alex Brown, ‘20
“Black Lives Matter,” protestors wrote. “Justice for Breonna Taylor.” “No Justice No Peace.” Brown remembered “a stencil of George Floyd’s face” painted onto the monument.
Following these protests and calls from the city of Decatur, DeKalb County Superior Court Justice Clarence Seeliger ordered the removal of the monument, which he referred to as a “public nuisance.” Activists gathered up the signs and took them to the Atlanta History Center for preservation.
Then on the evening of June 18, which happened to be the eve of Juneteenth, construction groups began to quietly gather around the monument with a crane. Word got out quickly via neighborhood Facebook groups. Decatur residents came in crowds, chattering excitedly. They came with songs and their children. Someone got champagne. “Everyone was pretty excited and in awe of the fact that it was really happening,” Brown said about the night. As the crane took hold of the obelisk and began to move, “people counted down like it was new year’s eve.”