Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the removal of the giant carving that depicts three Confederate war leaders on the face of state-owned Stone Mountain, saying it “remains a blight on our state and should be removed.”
“We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the union,” Abrams said in a series of tweets posted early Tuesday, a response to the deadly violence sparked by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va.
Removing the faces of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson would take a monster of a sandblaster and require a change in state law. The Georgia code has a clear mandate for the memorial, saying it should be “preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”
Lawmakers and civil rights groups have called for the removal of Confederate symbols at the memorial for years. After the 2015 shooting deaths of nine black worshipers by a white supremacist in Charleston, several legislators pushed for a boycott until Rebel flags at the site come down.
Gov. Nathan Deal quietly struck Confederate Memorial Day from the state’s official holiday calendar and removed the statue of a segregationist leader from the state grounds. State-issued license plates featuring the Rebel emblem have been altered, though only slightly. Statues and paintings of Confederate leaders in the statehouse are facing fresh criticism. And the state is set to unveil a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the Capitol this month.
Abrams faces state Rep. Stacey Evans in next year’s Democratic primary, and the race has quickly turned testy. She has faced criticism for refusing to rebuke protesters who chanted “support black women” at Evans at a progressive conference over the weekend.
Four high-profile Republicans are in the race, and several were critical of her stance. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said the state has taken “great strides” to add exhibits that give a more inclusive view of the Civil War.
“Instead of dividing Georgians with inflammatory rhetoric for political gain,” he said, “we should work together to add to our history, not take from it.”