COVINGTON — The Confederate memorial statue at the center of Covington’s Historic Square will be removed, following a 3-2 vote by the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night.
The board met in a special called meeting to consider removal of the statue. District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards made a motion to amend the agenda to discuss formation of a citizens advisory committee to determine the fate of the statue. District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan seconded the motion, noting that he felt the use of citizen committees had been instrumental in making decisions for the county in the past, including changing the county’s form of government.
During discussion of Edwards’ motion, however, Chairman Marcello Banes questioned the wisdom of bringing citizens with different views together to discuss such a divisive issue. Banes mentioned threatening emails that he and other commissioners have received related to the removal of the statue.
“The emails I’m receiving, these are not good emails…, ” said Banes, “… and if you want to stick people in a room like that and say ‘y’all have at it,’ I don’t understand that.”
Banes called for a vote on Edwards’ motion; it failed 3-2, with District 2 Commissioner Demond Mason, District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson opposed.
Henderson next made a motion to remove the statue “so that the county can ensure the appropriate measures are taken for the preservation and protection of the monument.”
Georgia law allows the monuments to be moved to protect and preserve them.
Schulz seconded the motion.
During discussion, Edwards asked Banes to elaborate on threats that have been made against the statue that would make it necessary to move it for its protection.
“The threats have been made to deface the statue and to do different things to the downtown Square,” said Banes. “And they are credible threats. Let me just say this, for three or three and a half years I have kept this off the agenda. .. when people go to making threats about destroying our community, destroying our town, to me that is unacceptable, and I hope it is to this board. I have said — I made it plain and clear — if we get three people to add this to the agenda, we will. So we are here tonight. These threats are credible threats. The same people who made the threats in Rockdale County made them here.”
Edwards asked if there would come a time when the statue could be returned to the Square.
Banes indicated that a new location is being sought for the monument.
“It is my hope and my prayer that the city of Covington will one day allow us to bring it to the Confederate cemetery,” Banes said. “I’ve been working really hard to get them to accept it. They have not.”
Banes said the county will keep the statue safe until an appropriate location can be found for it. No plans for its removal were discussed Tuesday night.
Banes called for a vote on Henderson’s motion to remove the statue. The motion passed 3-2 with Edwards and Cowan opposed.
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