DeKalb County lawyers say the county has the right to relocate a Confederate monument in downtown Decatur as long as it’s not concealed. But the word “conceal” could be a point of contention.
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Georgia law says local governments can’t remove or relocate Confederate monuments and memorials on state-owned land.
However, Decatur city officials argued the monument that sits outside the former county courthouse in Decatur is on county-owned land.
The legal opinion from DeKalb County attorneys issued on Monday agrees with Decatur officials. The 30-foot obelisk is on county-owned land so commissioners can relocate the monument. But the opinion also says the monument can’t be concealed.
“Conceal might mean either draping something over it or putting it inside where it might not be publicly viewable,” said Georgia State University law professor Timothy Lytton. “It might even be relocating it to another place where not many people will go by. All of those things could be considered concealment and that’s the kind of question that would have to be determined in a court in litigation.”
DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader said it will likely be next year before the commission takes up the matter again.
“If we do take action, we are likely to face a legal challenge so that our interpretation can be tested in the court,” Rader said.
There’s already a bill waiting for next year’s state legislative session that would seek to change the state law.