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History or hate? Protesters here and elsewhere keep question in spotlight

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 5:33 AM EDT
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Is removing a vestige of a racist past erasing history or righting a wrong?

This was a question on the mind of many people as protesters came out over the weekend in the CSRA — from Louisville to Augusta — and elsewhere in the region.

Although local protests were peaceful, scuffles broke out elsewhere in Georgia.

Augusta

On the heels of protests and a petition calling for removal of the Confederate monument in downtown Augusta, the demonstration took the opposite view: People at Sunday’s rally said they don’t want history to be erased.

Some argued yesterday that there could be lots of dangers when getting rid of reminders from the past.

One local protester says the monument represents heritage, not hate.

“People are trying to wipe out history. No, you can’t do that. … You learn from history. If you have a problem with this plaque and with this monument and what it stands for, then get a plaque around it explaining exactly what it was,” said demonstrator Bert Brown.

So what happens next? Will the monument stay on Broad Street?

A newly formed task force is working to come up with recommendations to give to Augusta leaders by October.

But it’s up to the state government to make a decision.

Louisville

Georgians in the Jefferson County community of Louisville rallied over the weekend for the old slave market there to come down.

The city recently approved to move the structure — one of the last standing slave markets in the country — but not get rid of it entirely.

Protesters gathered downtown, saying moving it is simply not enough.

They say they are not trying to forget history, but instead move forward from the pain.

Local protesters say it’s a slap in the face to the black community because of the dark memories, and that relocating it is not a solution.

“I saw this thing at the age of 4. It looked like something you could come up here and play with. And I asked her, ‘Can I go up there and play?’ And she said no. And I said, ‘Why, Big Mama?’ She said, ‘That’s where they used to sell colored people.’ And that thing stuck in my mind from that day to this one,” said James Ivery, a leader of efforts to get rid of the structure.

There’s a debate on whether or not the market house should qualify for protection as a monument.

Some attorneys say it does because it allegedly sits on land owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Others argue it wasn’t intended to be permanent or honor a historical figure.

Stone Mountain

In the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, a protest shut down Stone Mountain, home of the largest Confederate monument in the country.

Several dozen right-wing demonstrators, some waving the Confederate battle flag and many wearing military gear, gathered Saturday downtown, where they faced off against a few hundred counterprotesters, many of whom wore shirts or carried signs expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

People in both groups carried rifles.

For several hours, there was little visible police presence and things were largely peaceful, aside from some shoving and pushing and arguments.

But just before 1 p.m., fights broke out, with people punching and kicking each other and throwing rocks. That's when police officers in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowds.

By 2 p.m., almost all of the protesters had left the area.

Groups say the rally was planned in response to a march by a black militia group at Stone Mountain in early July.

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