Kennesaw City Council Votes To Replace Confederate Flag Downtown
Former Kennesaw City Council member Jimmy Dickens stood in front of the city council Monday night with a plea for its members and the mayor. Across the street in Memorial Park, the Confederate flag was still flying high.
"Kennesaw is my home, Kennesaw is what I love," he said. "But I want Kennesaw to love me the same."
The Kennesaw City Council and Mayor Derek Easterling shortly afterward voted to replace the Confederate flag with the original state flag of Georgia. Like many other cities across the state that are now reconciling and reevaluating Confederate monuments and artifacts, the move came with passionate arguments and accounts from the public.
Dickens, a business owner in the city, argued Confederate items should be put in a museum where they can be properly contextualized.
"There's people that don't even come downtown because they don't want to see it. They don't want to deal with that hurt, that pain," he said. "If I want to look at it, I want to see it in a museum where it can be hung properly."
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"This is not a white versus black issue," Dickens said. "This is everyone versus racism."
Dozens of other people, many of them Kennesaw State University students, spoke in agreement with Dickens. Some cited the university's code of conduct, which they said directly contradicted the presence of the flag downtown.
Not everyone in attendance was in support of the flag's removal, however. Kennesaw resident Debra Williams, who ran for mayor in 2015, accused the current mayor and council of breaking the law in an attempt to change the flag.
"You will be no less than the rioters, looters, and killers that are ravaging our cities across the nation at this time," she said. "You will no longer be serving with integrity, but emotionally."
She went on to say that she would file a criminal complaint against the council. Williams was referring to a 2001 compromise that occurred when the state of Georgia moved to change its flag, which at that time incorporated the Confederate battle flag within it. As part of that compromise, cities cannot remove or alter Confederate monuments.
In Monday's vote, the council agreed to replace the Confederate flag with the original Georgia flag, arguing it was the actual flag flown over the state during the American Civil War. The vote was unanimous.
Rep. Ed Setzler attended the meeting and unfurled the new flag alongside Dickens after the vote.
The past several weeks have been a turbulent time in the city's history. The historic downtown has seen several protests focused around Wildman's Civil War Surplus, a store that sells and displays Confederate pariphernalia.
"Today, we take a stand for history by ensuring the accuracy of the symbols we display in our memorial," said council member Chris Henderson. "We take a stand against hate by removing a symbol so commonly associated with hate."