When the heavy machinery started rolling up on the sidewalks behind the DeKalb County courthouse late Thursday night, it was a sign that the confederate monument was about to come down.
A week before, a DeKalb County judge declared the 3o-foot-tall stone obelisk a “nuisance” and ordered its removal.
As crews in hard hats went to work the crowd cheered them on.
Among the crowd was DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson who rejoiced as she glanced at her watch: in a few minutes it would be June 19.
“This is a proud night and this is one that I will always remember and that I will share with my grandchildren,” she said. “And, I’m just proud.”
Amid the recent demonstrations denouncing police brutality against African-Americans, the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights was among those renewing demands for the monument’s removal. Mawuli Davis leads the group.
“It was erected to send a message to our ancestors that their Black lives didn’t matter, but today, we are able to say to our ancestors and to our children’s children that those Black lives mattered and we continue to matter and we will continue to struggle,” said Davis.
The ultimate fate of the monument remains uncertain as litigation continues. Its removal conflicts with a state law that bans the taking down of confederate monuments.
But DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond vowed that the county would do everything in its power to keep the monument away from the town square.
“Because on this day of freedom, we also declare that the Decatur Square is free of a monument that represented intolerance and bigotry and enslavement of generations of people,” said Thurmond.
Thurmond says the removal of the confederate monument Thursday night was another step in distinguishing Civil War history from “lost cause” mythology.