The president of the Atlanta NAACP says the civil rights group wants Confederate symbols – including a giant carving at Stone Mountain Park – removed from all government-owned property and plans to pursue making those changes during the next legislative session.
Some who support flying the Confederate battle flag say the symbol represents Southern heritage and pride in Civil War-era leaders. However, Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose and others have argued the flag is a divisive symbol and white supremacy is at the heart of the heritage the flag celebrates.
The Confederate battle flag has come under renewed scrutiny in the weeks since nine black churchgoers were fatally shot during Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.
Dylann Storm Roof, a white man who was photographed with the flag several times, is charged in the shooting deaths and authorities are investigating the killings as a hate crime.
Stone Mountain – roughly 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of downtown Atlanta – features a large carving of Jefferson Davis, who was president of the Confederacy of secessionist, pro-slavery southern states in the 1861-1865 American Civil War, and Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas ”Stonewall” Jackson. The white supremacist Ku Klux Klan also once held notorious cross-burnings and organizational meetings there.
A battle flag at the park was stolen from its pole but was replaced less than an hour after authorities noticed it was missing, Stone Mountain Memorial Association spokesman John Bankhead said last week.
Although the park is state property, it doesn’t receive state funding and operates by using entrance fees and other income the park generates, Bankhead said. Any changes at the park would also require approval from the Georgia General Assembly, he said.
Although the carving may be one of the most recognizable tributes to the Confederacy in the metro Atlanta area, the Atlanta NAACP’s call to remove the flag and memorials from state property extends beyond that to all state property and land, Rose said.
Calls to eliminate use of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols since the Charleston massacre have prompted changes in several states. South Carolina lawmakers recently voted to remove a battle flag from the Statehouse grounds after one had been flying there for more than 50 years. The flag was moved to a room with other Civil War-era relics.
South Carolina’s leaders first flew the battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. Critics said the flag remained there to represent official opposition to the civil rights movement. In 2000, the flag was moved to a 30-foot (9-meter) pole next to a Confederate memorial outside the Statehouse, where it flew until lawmakers this year voted to take it down.
At its national convention in Philadelphia, the NAACP adopted a resolution Tuesday calling on Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag. The resolution said Mississippi is the only state with a flag that includes ”a symbol of war, hate and a failed attempt to perpetuate its right to slavery.”
In Alabama, Rev. Robert Shanklin of the Huntsville chapter of the NAACP told local news media that he wants the battle flag removed from the uniforms state troopers wear and the patrol vehicles they drive. The battle flag is part of the seal used by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the governor’s office.
A week after the Charleston massacre, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered four Confederate banners flying at a Confederate monument at the state Capitol to be removed. The Mobile City Council last week also voted unanimously to remove the Confederate flag and other banners from the city’s seal.