The cost to the city for providing security and other services for Thursday’s rally calling for the removal of the Confederate monument on Broad Street topped $30,000.
Richmond County Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said costs for labor came to $21,100 and up to $10,000 for additional services and equipment that included a Georgia State Patrol helicopter that flew overhead.
More than 55 deputies manned the rally by the monument on the 700 block of Broad Street. Clayton said “visible and invisible” officers were on scene to ensure safety. No violence was reported Thursday.
“In any situation like this you hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” he said.
The office had about a week to prepare, Clayton said.
“We had to do about two days worth of refresher training and a bunch of different coordinating,” he said. “It’s necessary but it’s very time consuming.”
The rally drew more than 200 people with differing viewpoints to downtown. Beulah Nash-Teachey, chapter president of Augusta’s NAACP, said a committee will be formed from the 42 attendees who signed up during the rally to discuss the issue with local and state leaders.
A state law prevents city leaders from moving, changing or obscuring any memorial to military veterans on public property. Nash-Teachey said the committee, which has not been named, will first decide whether they want to present the issue to local elected officials.
“We have to decide what is the best process,” Nash-Teachey said. “We have to find out as a group and make a determination.”
State Sen. Jesse Stone said he is not familiar with any laws that permit local elected officials to remove the monument. “I think they would have to seek changes at the state level,” he said.
To start the process, Augusta legislators would first need community support before filing a bill and have the bill approved by the state House and Senate. Then the governor would have to sign off on the new law, Stone said.
Augusta Commissioner Andrew Jefferson did not attend Thursday’s rally but said he would be “interested in entering some dialogue,” once it’s presented to the commission.
“I don’t want to say anything one way or the other until it’s brought to us formerly and until I could hear more definitive information on it,” Jefferson said.
The issue is “pretty much conversation” until it is formerly presented to commissioners, he added.
“Right now the commissioners don’t have anything to do with it,” he said.
Commissioner Dennis Williams, who attended the rally, said the speakers provided legitimate reasons to have the monument removed. “I think the speakers did well about justifying their position and I could understand it,” Williams said. “It gave the association the opportunity to voice their concerns so we’ll go from there.”
Possible next steps for the commission could include a community forum, he added. “I could see having a forum if we can be guaranteed that everyone will be civil and respectful,” Williams said. “It’s no need of having anything if people come up to voice their opinion and some would be unreasonable about it. You don’t want it to turn out into a yelling debate.”