ATLANTA, Feb. 26, 2013 – Legislation pending in the Georgia state general assembly would make it illegal for anyone to “mutilate, deface, defile, or abuse contemptuously any publicly owned monument,” including those honoring the Confederate States of America.
The proposal, House Bill 91, mandates that publicly owned monuments located on public property be kept on display in a prominent place. Concealing monuments would be a misdemeanor, and anyone who “damages, destroys, or loses a monument or that takes or removes a monument without replacing it” would be on the hook for any repair costs.
The measure, filed by state Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, defines a monument as including plaques, markers and statues “constructed and located with the intent of being permanently displayed and perpetually maintained” and “dedicated to a historical entity, event or series of events.” The measure is currently pending in the state house.
“We’re not saying they can’t move them,” the Atlanta Daily World newspaper quoted Benton as saying. “We’re just saying they can’t just put them in a field somewhere.”
Georgia is home to hundreds of monuments commemorating the Civil War, including those dedicated to Confederate soldiers and the battles fought in and around Atlanta. Benton’s proposal specifically prohibits the obstruction of the giant carving on the side of Stone Mountain that depicts a trio of prominent Confederates – Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The proposed legislation does allow monuments to be removed for “preservation, protection, and interpretation.” However, a “monument shall not be relocated to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such a location.”
The bill also allows monuments to be relocated to make way for expansions to buildings and roads. But, the monument must be moved “to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access within the same jurisdiction.”
Should the measure pass, it would also be unlawful to “obscure any privately owned monument … located on privately owned property.”
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