As national and statewide efforts to remove Confederate monuments continue, a memorial in the heart of downtown Lawrenceville will remain after two bills proposing the option to remove monuments fail to pass chambers in the Georgia General Assembly.
House Bill 650 and Senate Bill 302 sought to grant local governments or any “public entity” with ownership the authority to remove or conceal monuments dedicated to or honoring the Confederate States of America (CSA), but neither passed out of their respective chambers by Crossover Day on Feb. 28.
“I feel it would affect the whole state,” Alexis Adeojo, a sophomore biology major, said when asked if the bills failing to cross chambers would impact efforts to have monuments removed. “If this area isn’t doing it then why would other places.”
“The erection of our monument along with the Confederate Battle Flag’s sole purpose is to honor our Confederate ancestors,” Aide De Camp for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Camp 96 David Floyd said.
Current state law prevents the removal of any monuments on public property that honor past and present military personnel of Georgia, the United States of America, or the CSA.
“Both sides I feel are right,” Justin Vu, junior biology major, said. “Personally I don’t mind [monuments] being up, but I would understand why people want them taken down.”
“[The City of Lawrenceville] would not have any jurisdiction over the preservation or movement of any monument on the grounds of the Historic Courthouse,” said Mayor Judy Johnson.
The Historic Courthouse and its grounds where the memorial is located are the property of Gwinnett County, despite being at the center of Lawrenceville. Any decisions made on the monument would be decided at the county level by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners.
Joe Sorenson, Communications Director for the Gwinnett County Government, spoke on behalf of Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and District 4 Commissioner John Heard.
“Without knowing how the State may or may not address this through future legislation, the Board members can’t know what options they’d be able to consider and what conditions might be attached,”
Sorenson said. “They do their best to make it a practice not to speculate on hypothetical situations.”
The monument was presented in 1993 by SCV Camp 96 and United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter 2365 and features a gold CSA seal at the top, above an image of a Confederate soldier standing in front of an early flag of the Confederacy.
Below these images are inscriptions that read, from left to right, “In remembrance of the citizens of Gwinnett County who honorably served the Confederate States of America,” “1861-1865 Lest We Forget” and a quote attributed to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reading “Any people with contempt for their heritage have lost faith in themselves and no nation can long survive without pride in its traditions.”
Efforts have been made in Georgia to remove symbols honoring the Confederacy. One monument that has drawn attention is an obelisk located outside the former county courthouse in nearby DeKalb County.
President of DeKalb NAACP Teresa Hardy stated that her chapter followed one of the bills in the Georgia General Assembly and commented on its failure to cross chambers.
“It doesn’t stop us from still trying to have [the obelisk] removed,” Hardy said. “It’s a bill that we still have to put some effort behind.”
President of Atlanta NAACP Richard Rose was critical of the bills even before they failed to cross chambers.
“Both acknowledge the celebration of the Confederacy as appropriate with which I fundamentally disagree,” Rose said. “Each refers to the Confederate States of America as if it was an honorable alliance.”
Following the 2015 Charleston church shooting, there have been efforts made nationwide to remove monuments and memorials on public property dedicated to the CSA. These efforts culminated in 2017 with the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in the death of one woman.
“What many citizens of this country fail to understand is that this campaign from the left-wing activists is a never-ending, ideological campaign to completely rewrite our nation’s history and cast our Confederate ancestors and forefathers as villains,” Floyd said.
“We live in a democracy where we have our right to say, we have our right to vote for it, if people want it down they want it down,” James Wilson, senior business major, said.
There is currently one other visible Confederate memorial in Gwinnett County, which is also in Lawrenceville. The second is a marker on the Fallen Heroes Memorial located at the Gwinnett Justice and
Administration Center honoring Gwinnett County residents who died during the War Between the States.
“1818 is when Gwinnett County’s history started,” Bill Grimes, 1st Lt. Commander of SCV Camp 96, said.
“To leave out the period of 1861-65, in the telling of Gwinnett County’s history is to leave out a chapter of that history.”
“The Confederate monuments and the symbolism of what it stands for really diminishes who we are in the United States of America,” Hardy said.