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The Confederate statue stands in the middle of the Covington Square park, with the Historic Newton County Courthouse in the background.

COVINGTON — A “Save the Statue Peace Rally” is planned for the Covington Square Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to raise funds for the ongoing legal battle to prevent the statue from being moved.

Bill Nash, one of the organizers of the rally, said along with raising funds, the event will provide historical information about the statue and update people on the status of the court case. In addition, Nash said H.K. Edgerton, a self-described “Black Confederate activist” and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans from North Carolina, will be on hand to speak about Civil War history and Southern heritage.

Nash said this event is the third to raise funds for the legal battle to prevent the statue from being removed. He said he anticipates a peaceful event.

“We are very much about history — we aren’t about racism or anything else,” he said. “We just want to preserve our history.”

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted in July to remove the Confederate monument from the center of the Historic Square, which prompted Sons of Confederate Veterans, General George “Tig” Anderson Camp, and Georgia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans and Tiffany Davis Humphries to file petitions to block its removal. On Sept. 14 Newton County Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott dismissed the two petitions, and Sons of Confederate Veterans immediately filed an appeal with the Georgia Court of Appeals.

As part of his ruling, Ott stipulated that the statue would remain in place until the appeals process has been exhausted. The case is scheduled to by heard by the Appeals Court on April 13. Nash said statue preservationists plan to take the case to the state Supreme Court, if necessary.

In his order dismissing the petitions by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Tiffany Humphries, Ott ruled that the two petitioners did not have standing to bring suit against the county, and even if they did, the county was protected by sovereign immunity.

On the issue of standing, Ott cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated the petitioners must have suffered “an injury in fact,” that there must be a “causal connection” between the injury and the challenged action, and that it must be “likely” that the injury would be redressed by a favorable decision by the court.

“In the present case, it is clear that neither petitioner has sustained any actual damages when they are seeking an injunction,” wrote Ott. “Even were the Confederate monument removed, it is questionable if the petitioners would have standing” because there are no damages at this time.

While Ott ruled that the petitioners did not prove that they have standing to sue the county, he also addressed the issue of sovereign immunity.

The petitioners had argued that the sovereign immunity that protects the state does not extend to the counties. However, Ott cited a ruling by Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amerio in a similar case in which Amero wrote, in part, “it has long been recognized that counties are included in the extension of sovereign immunity to the state and its departments and agencies…”

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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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