The Confederate monument in downtown Decatur was removed late Thursday.
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The Confederate monument in downtown Decatur was removed late Thursday.

The 30-foot-tall Confederate monument that stood in the Decatur square since 1908 was removed Thursday night to raucous cheers from hundreds of people who had gathered to watch and celebrate.

The symbolism of the monument’s removal on the eve of Juneteenth – the annual day celebrating when slaves in Texas were informed of their freedom on June 19, 1865 – was not lost on the crowd.

“The people united can never be divided,” the crowd chanted moments after the monument was taken down.   

A construction crew with a giant crane showed up around 10:30 p.m. and began the delicate process of removing the 30-foot obelisk from its perch outside the DeKalb County courthouse. A judge last week ordered its removal and placed in storage.

Word spread through Decatur and soon hundreds were gathered. “Take it down! Take it down!” the crowd chanted. 

Clare Schexnyder began streaming the event on Facebook Live shortly before 11 p.m. “The Confederate monument that’s been here for 112 years is finally going to come down,” she said. “I never thought I would see this day."

At about 11:30 p.m., the crane lifted the obelisk from its podium and swung it around. “Drop it! Drop it!” the crowd said.

The hundreds of onlookers erupted in cheers. Some rejoiced with quips of “loser trophy.” Others said, “Good riddance.” One man shouted, “Put it in the trash.”

“This is history,” said Schexnyder.

The monument’s removal comes amid widespread protests calling for social justice, police reform and the removal of monuments honoring the Confederacy. Many Confederate monuments have been vandalized in recent weeks, from Decatur to Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery down to Macon.

Georgia law makes it difficult for local governments to remove structures honoring the Confederacy in public places. But in his ruling last week, Judge Clarence Seeliger sided with a complaint filed by the city of Decatur that the structure was a public nuisance.

“In short, the Confederate obelisk has become an increasingly frequent target of graffiti and vandalism, a figurative lightning rod for friction among citizens, and a potential catastrophe that could happen at any time if individuals attempt to forcibly remove or destroy it,” Seeliger wrote.

The obelisk in downtown Decatur was erected in 1908 by the Daughters of the Confederacy.