McDONOUGH — Without any advance notice, the Henry County Board of Commissioners had the Confederate monument removed from the McDonough square Tuesday night.
Commissioners voted early in July to remove the statue and had announced that the removal would take place on Monday. However, on Monday afternoon, Melissa Robinson, Henry County public information director, said the county had not yet signed a contract for the work.
Calls to the county by the Herald on Tuesday to determine when the statue would be removed received no response. Then, on Tuesday evening, officers from the McDonough Police Department, Henry County Police Department and Georgia State Patrol descended on the square and moved all spectators, including the press, one block off the square for “safety reasons.” Henry County Police Capt. Randy Lee later stated the square was a “construction zone.”
Ray McBerry, founder of Georgia Minutemen, was taken away in handcuffs for allegedly refusing to move from the sidewalk across the square from the statue. He was issued a citation for obstruction but was not arrested.
Efforts through the court system by McBerry and the Sons of Confederate Veterans to stop the county from removing the statue were denied by Superior Court Judge Brian Amero on Monday.
At 7:38 p.m. Tuesday, the county posted on its Facebook page the following notice:
“The Confederate Monument on the city of McDonough Square will be safely and respectfully removed at 10 p.m. tonight. Protestors and the general public each have the right to exercise their First Amendment rights during this event. Every effort will be made to respect the rights of those participants, while making sure the event stays peaceful and lawful. In an effort to respect these rights, public safety has designated two safe protest locations for those wishing to attend.”
The announcement went on to list two assembly sites for those in support of and those in opposition to the removal of the statue, along with a list of restricted activities. Both sites were well off the square and out of sight of the statue as it was removed.
Law enforcement did allow restaurants on the square to remain open until closing time. Crust and Craft, a new pizza and craft beer restaurant on Keys Ferry Street, directly facing the statue, allowed patrons to remain on its patio just off the street to watch the removal of the statue.
News media was also allowed back onto Keys Ferry Street at 10 p.m. to record the removal of the statue.
The Covington firm of Roper and Sons contracted with the county to remove the statue; it is the same firm that removed the statue from in front of the Rockdale County Courthouse in Conyers on June 30.
Roper has also submitted a bid to the Newton County Board of Commissioners to remove the statue from the Covington Square for $35,000. The cost to remove the statue from the McDonough square was not immediately known.
It took two tries for Roper to properly get straps around the Confederate soldier on top of the monument, and at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, the statue of the soldier, which was erected in 1910, came down after 110 years. The rest of the monument was removed during the early morning hours of Wednesday, and was taken to an undisclosed location for storage.