Atlanta NAACP, SCLC: Gov. Deal Won’t Talk Confederate Symbols

The Atlanta NAACP and SCLC want to talk Confederate symbols with Gov. Nathan Deal.

Leaders with the Atlanta NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference say Gov. Nathan Deal declined a meeting to discuss what they say is state sponsorship of Confederate symbols.

They said the Confederate flags found at Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta have only intensified the need for dialogue.

It’s an issue of state law. Talk to lawmakers. That’s been Gov. Deal’s response to previous requests to discuss changes to Georgia’s Confederate symbols, including the ones at Stone Mountain Park.

“Most of these [symbols] are protected by state law,” Deal said Monday regarding Atlanta City Council’s request for a committee to study potential changes to Stone Mountain’s bas-relief sculpture. “Stone Mountain is certainly protected by state law. They perhaps more appropriately should have concentrated their focus on the legislators who would have to change anything that would give rise to any changes in memorials or things of that nature.”

But Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose disagrees that it’s an issue of state law.

“The governor needs to talk to us. He can take the lead on what he wants to lead on,” Rose said.

NAACP attorney Gerald Griggs said Georgia has the opportunity to take the lead on distancing itself from what he called hateful symbols, before violent incidents like the attack on the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“For the governor to state that the time is not right, clearly he’s not feeling the winds that are going on in the South,” said Griggs.

He and other civil rights leaders said they’re open to discussing all options for the future of Stone Mountain and moving away from symbols of the Confederacy.

“In demonstration, in parade, in protest, even less than 48 hours ago, this flag symbolizes and celebrates division within this great country,” said Rose.

The stance was notably softer than Rose’s recent suggestion that the carvings at Stone Mountain be sand-blasted off the rock face.

Asked if Gov. Deal might take a meeting in the future, his office responded via email: “having a news conference about a scheduling conflict probably wasn’t the most helpful way to build up trust.”