The NAACP will not remain idle as the Georgia Senate adds stronger protections for Confederate monuments. In a 34-17 vote, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 77, that states, “any person who damages or destroys a monument could be liable for triple the cost to repair or replace it, plus exemplary damages — additional costs meant as a punishment.”
Violators could also be required to pay attorney’s fees and court costs. The bill helps to preserve Confederate monuments across the state of Georgia. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 174 Confederate statues in the state.
The passing of the bill was blasted by NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, who said it was an endorsement of racism.
“The NAACP stands with its Georgia State Conference and branches in condemning the Georgia Senate’s decision to further protect Confederate monuments. This action shows that they are willing to endorse racism and oppress of a third of [the state’s] citizenry. White supremacy is personified in these monuments. And while Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white nationalists defend them as an innocent representation of a mythologized ‘American Heritage,’ we know that these symbols glorify treason and a hateful history of Black subjugation, reinforced through domestic terrorism. In order for our country to move forward — to become a nation united and free from inequity and bigotry — we must remove, not protect, Confederate symbols from the parks, schools, streets, counties and military bases that define America’s landscape and culture. These monuments are not history and [their] continued presence in this country is signal to people of color that America has not repudiated racism.”
Confederate symbols have always had strong ties to racism and hatred. For instance, a memorial of Gen. John Brown Gordon remains at the Georgia State Capitol. Gordon defended slavery and was once the head of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 2017, the debate over Confederate monuments came to a boiling point during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. During the rally, White supremacists clashed with protesters opposed to their racist views and attempts to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments. James Field Jr., a White supremacist, drove his car into a group of people protesting the Confederate symbols, killing Heather Heyer. White was convicted of murder and faces 20 years in prison.
Georgia’s bill to protect Confederate monuments was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis. In a statement, Mullis said, “The issue is not a matter of the events people want to remember, rather, the events people must remember.”
Now the bill goes to the Georgia House First Readers for consideration. If the House passes the bill, it advances to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp.