The statue of a Confederate soldier, which stood in the McDonough square for 110 years, was swung away from its pedestal (left) by a crane Tuesday night. The Henry County Courthouse can be seen through the trees in the background.

COVINGTON — Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott has granted an extension for petitioners to submit briefs in support of or opposition to removing the Confederate monument from the Covington Square.

Ott also formalized a verbal consent agreement reached by the parties “to maintain the status quo of the Confederate statue… The court hereby orders that the statue is not to be moved by the county during the pendency of this case, except by further order of the court.”

Ott presided over a July 20 hearing at which Sons of Confederate Veterans, General George “Tig” Anderson Camp, and the Georgia Division of the SCV, along with Newton County resident Tiffany Davis Humphries petitioned the court for an injunction to prevent the statue’s removal. Humphries asked for the 30-day extension in order to retain an attorney.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted July 14 to remove the statue and place it in storage until another location can be found.

According to commissioners who supported the measure, the statue removal is necessary to protect it from those who were threatening to damage or deface it. Georgia law allows monuments to be moved to protect and preserve them.

Ott had given the county and the two petitioners in the case 14 days — until Aug. 3 — to submit briefs in the case. Ott issued an order Wednesday extending the time by 30 days — until Sept. 2 at 5 p.m.

In their briefs, Ott asked the parties to address whether or not the plaintiffs have standing for relief in the case, whether or not the county has sovereign immunity and whether or not injunctive relief can be granted.

The judge also said he expects the party that does not prevail to file an appeal. Ott said he believes the case should ultimately go to the Georgia Court of Appeals in order to clarify the law on what he described as an issue that “strike(s) deeply into our community.”

Ott’s order to keep the statue in place pending a decision by the courts follows the unannounced removal of the Henry County Confederate statue Tuesday night. Petitions from Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Georgia Minutemen seeking an injunction against removal of the statue on the McDonough Square were denied by Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero.

The Henry Board of Commissioners had announced the statue would be removed Monday. However, the county later announced it did not have a signed contract to remove the monument. Then, on Tuesday, without announcing it to the public, the county began the process of removing the statue.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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