Augusta civil rights activists receive approval to rally for removal of downtown Confederate monument

An Augusta civil rights organization is pushing forward with plans for a rally on removing a Confederate monument downtown .

 

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday it has approved a permit request on behalf of the Augusta chapter of the NAACP to assemble Thursday in front of the monument in the 700 block of Broad Street. The sheriff’s office said there have been no permit requests by potential counter-protesters.

A The state NAACP called for the removal of all Confederate symbols from state and local properties last week. The call to remove Confederate symbols follows a growing movement nationwide after violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, triggered by that city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Beulah Nash-Teachey, the Augusta chapter NAACP president, called for the rally at 6 p.m. Thursday to petition the removal of the monument, which honors Confederate generals Lee, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb and William Henry Talbot Walker, and soldier Berry Greenwood Benson.

“There is always a time for everything,” Nash said in a letter responding to public concerns Monday. “We are called to stand together and not allow outside influences to create any more division.”

Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams has said he expects counter-protesters to appear at the rally. However, Sheriff Richard Roundtree said Monday he expects for the rally to be peaceful and that the office “will plan accordingly based on that analysis.”

“At this time, we do not anticipate anything but a peaceful event like many others we have had in the past,” Roundtree said. “We will address any safety concerns if they arise.”

In a letter responding to public concerns about whether the rally will be peaceful, Nash-Teachey quoted American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Union soldier, who said ‘One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation evermore,’ as purpose for the assembly.

“We intend to come together with those sentiments in mind,” she said. “Now is the time for unity and time to turn the page to a new and inclusive understanding of our shared history that recognizes and respects everyone’s heritage.”

She also challenged residents to consider the wording inscribed on the north-face of the monument. Part of the inscripiton states: “No nation rose so white and fair, None fell so pure of crime. Our Confederate Dead.”

“Do the words reflect a community that has the world class Cyber Center of Excellence, a place where so many veterans have fought and died for, a place where the schools are leading the way for future leaders, or a place that has low crime rate or a city where people travel the world to convene for golfing — for the green jacket that represents the greatest in golf?” she asked.

Nash-Teachey said she is expecting several Augusta-based group leaders to gather and share their concerns about the monument Thursday, and further a petition to have it desmolished or relocated.

Though some Augusta commissioners have stated their positions or concerns about the call to remove the monument, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis has yet to respond to several attempts by The Augusta Chronicle for comment.

Berry Wright, an Augusta resident for 27 years, stood near the monument Monday as visitors stopped by to observe and photograph it. Wright said he does not plan to attend the rally, but thinks organizers wouldn’t have called for it if the monument’s location wasn’t a real issue.

“It had to be bad if they’re doing all of this now,” he said.

Among those who stopped to photograph the 76-foot monument Monday was Mike Brown, who grew up in Augusta. Brown, who prefers the monument’s current location, said he does not plan to attend the rally as a counter-statement for its removal.

“I’m going to hibernate,” he said.

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