In light of recent protests across the country, city officials are considering the removal of the Confederate flag that flies in downtown Kennesaw’s Memorial Park.
This is not the first time Kennesaw City Council has attempted removal of the controversial flag. In 2017, Reid Jones started a petition to have the flag removed. It received thousands of signatures and is still active with more than 6,700 supporters. However, the flag is protected by state law prohibiting movement or removal of war memorials, part of a 2001 compromise that was reached when then-Gov. Roy Barnes pushed to change the state flag. Council passed a resolution in 2017, asking the state to allow cities to make their own decisions with respect to local monuments, but it was never taken up by the legislature.
At Monday’s work session, Councilman David Blinkhorn asked his fellow council members to immediately return the United States flag to its place and remove the Confederate flag permanently.
“A week or so ago, in preparation for the first protest, out of fear of vandalism, all the flags were removed from Memorial Park downtown. When I became aware of the removals, I thought it was a good idea. But the more I thought of it, I realized two things. First, the United States Flag should not have been removed…it is a symbol of our freedoms and rights…it’s only fitting that any protest that takes place should be under that flag,” Blinkhorn said.
He went on to say that in the two weeks that the Confederate flag has also been down, he has received no complaints demanding it be replaced.
“I fully understand that to some in the community, the Confederate flag has deep family meaning. I also understand that to others in the community, the flag represents something entirely different,” he said.
If the city were to remove the flag on its own, it would be up to the legislature to challenge the action, something he feels is unlikely given the current climate, according to Blinkhorn.
Council members Pat Ferris, Tracey Viars and Chris Henderson expressed support for Blinkhorn’s comments, though Henderson expressed concerns about the legality of doing so without approval of the legislature.
Councilman James “Doc” Eaton, suggested replacing it with the original flag of the Confederacy, while some viewers watching the Zoom meeting via Facebook from home, left comments suggesting replacing it with the Kennesaw city flag.
“I am not looking for a compromise that glorifies any portion of the Civil War. It is a part of our history, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned from it. We cannot move into the future until we quit living in the past,” Blinkhorn told the Courier in an email.
Jones, who organized protests in 2017 in addition to starting the petition said, “I commend Councilmember David Blinkhorn for his vocality in addressing the blight of the Confederate flag in downtown Kennesaw, but we cannot continue to grow complacent about overt racism in our city until the next time riots break out. It’s time for the City Council to do the job that we pay them for and that they signed up for by representing us with local and state leadership to get these monuments removed immediately. There is no reasonable excuse why this flag remains in town.”
Protests have erupted all over the country in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin, along with three other officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung and Tou Thao, have since been fired and charged.
The local protests have also put the spotlight back on Dent Myers’ Wildman’s Civil War surplus store, which has drawn controversy over its own Confederate flag on the building’s facade and displays of racist Jim Crow-era memorabilia and a fully-dressed Klansman with a noose.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.