CONYERS — After hearing calls for the Confederate statue at the front corner of the Rockdale County Courthouse on Main Street in Olde Town Conyers to come down, Rockdale County Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. is making an “executive decision” to have the statue removed Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Nesbitt made his announcement in a video Tuesday afternoon that can be viewed on the Rockdale County government website and on its Facebook page. Nesbitt states that history was made on April 26, 1913, when the statue was erected and will be made again on June 30, 2020, when it comes down.
“I’ve made an executive decision to remove the Confederate monument here on the courthouse property here in Rockdale County in the heart of Olde Town Conyers,” Nesbitt said. “I’m inviting you out to join me and several others tonight at 10 p.m. as we remove this monument to a location that is much more suitable for this Confederate monument.”
Attorney Gary Washington made a plea for the monument to be removed at the Board of Commissioners meeting on June 23. Washington said while all Americans, Black and white, share the same history and heritage of the Civil War and the Confederate monuments, the Rockdale statue “with the two engraved rebel flags, and the flag symbolizing white supremacy, is repugnant to the principle of equal justice under the law.”
In response to Washington, Nesbitt said he had also “received calls, emails and texts from residents, both Black and white, interested in the removal of the monument. Nesbitt added then that the county “will follow the letter of the law to do things the way they should be done,” and they “started some time ago looking at alternative locations to properly place this monument.”
Georgia Senate Bill 77 was passed last year to actively protect all government statues and monuments, including prohibiting the removal of Confederate monuments. But the bill also includes a meaning that it prohibits the removal of monuments of Confederate War leaders or figures. The bill makes it unlawful to “mutilate, deface, or abuse” any monument that is publicly owned by the state of Georgia. But it also allows a local government seeking to relocate a monument to place it in “site of similar prominence.”
Nesbitt did not say where the monument will go, but said a part of leadership is making tough decisions.
“Tonight, today I’m making an executive decision,” he said. “History will continue to evolve.”
Nesbitt’s decision to remove the statue comes two days before a planned demonstration organized by two local students.
Sundiata Washington and Imani Williams, both graduates of the Rockdale County Magnet School for Science and Technology, had organized a demonstration to take place Thursday at 4 p.m. to encourage the Board of Commissioners to bring down the statue. The two had started an online petition that had garnered more than 1,000 signatures.