Dueling petitions over Walton County’s monuments hit social media

As protests continue around the country following the death of Georgia Floyd last month at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, another issue has now been raised. Attempts to get rid of some statues, many due to connections to the Confederacy and thus the slavery era, have sprung up around the county. And that issue now has reached Walton County.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, some protests turned violent while others did not. Walton County was, fortunately, one of those communities where it did not. Local authorities and law enforcement reiterated everybody’s First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and that is what happened, both in protests over Floyd’s death as well as a rally in support for local law enforcement that followed this weekend.

At the time of the protests, Monroe Mayor John Howard wrote on his Facebook page, “The worst of times can bring out our best. We share an anger and grief at the death of George Floyd and in the way it happened. No one should treat another human in that manner. The trial and sentence should be quick, and the penalty should be harsh. I understand those who are protesting–they want to make their voices heard. We have a protest going on in the Best Small Town in America at this very moment. Those participating are making their voices heard – legally and peacefully. These men and women deserve the right to be heard,” concluding with a request for everybody to not try to entice violence in “the town that we love.”

Similarly, some of the attempts to get rid of the statues across the country have been violent with statues being pulled down. But in other instances, the legal route has triumphed with attempts to petition the correct authority. That again appears to be the route taken over monuments in Walton County.

Steve Brown of the Monroe Museum provided some of the history behind the placing of the monument on the  Historic Courthouse. The property on which it stands is deeded to the Walton County Board of Commissioners.

“The Ladies’ Memorial Association raised the money for the erection of the Confederate Memorial with help from the surviving Confederate Veterans. The Cornerstone was laid by the Masons on 1 Oct 1907. This is verified by a reference in Dr. Hugh Park’s diary. The memorial was unveiled on 24 Apr 1908 in a ceremony chronicled in the Atlanta Constitution of 25 Apr 1908 and a reference in the memoirs of Rev. James M. Adams. Sometimes, the date 1 Jun 1907 is assigned to the memorial’s dedication, and some dedication may have taken place that day, but there is no evidence to support this,” Brown said, providing the following disclaimer: Resources provided by the Monroe Museum are solely for informational purposes.

A Facebook group named FORM (Fighting Oppression and Racism in Monroe) began a petition about a week ago to remove statues in the county. It currently sits at more than 400 signatures. The petition reads, “We must put in the work to dismantle white supremacy, starting with tearing down the statues that worship Confederate generals and monuments that give credence to Confederate “causes” throughout Monroe, GA. These statues need to be removed forever!! They can place them in a museum, but we DO NOT want them in our communities any longer. They are contemptible symbols of white supremacy, racism, and murder. We cannot allow them to shelter racists any longer.”

The main focus is on a statue of a Confederate soldier that has stood for more than a century on the lawn in front of the Walton County historic courthouse in Monroe. The attempts to get rid of it, however, have met with resistance with an opposing Facebook page and petition springing up on Saturday. That petition has now raised more than 700 signatures. It reads, “The signatures on this petition represent the many who are against the removal of all monuments located in Walton County Georgia. These monuments are to pay tribute to our local heroes of all walks of life that paid the ultimate sacrifice to fight for freedom of all lives.”

There are those who believe it should be an item for voters to have their say by way of a referendum on the ballot. It is worth noting, however, that a petition to get it on a Referendum would require 35 % of registered voters.

How do you feel about the issue? Share your thoughts on Facebook and sign the petition that best conveys your feelings on the subject. Here again, it is worth noting that legally neither petition does more than convey your feelings on the subject.

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