COVINGTON, Ga. – The controversy about what to do with Confederate monuments affecting the rest of the South came to Newton County Tuesday night during the citizen comments portion of the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting when somebody called for the BOC to vote on removing the monument to the county’s Civil War dead from the Covington Square.
The citizen, who first broached the subject of removing the monument a little over two months ago, asked that a vote to remove the monument be placed on the agenda of a future BOC meeting.
“I want to begin to ask now to place the removement of the statue in city square on the agenda to be voted on. We at least need to have the vote to have it removed,” he said.
After the first citizen, several others spoke, both for and against the removal of the monument, which was placed on the square in 1906.
During commissioner comments, District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said it’s time to have a conversation about the monument.
“I’m going to address the monument,” she said.” We’ve had someone present to us at least since June at every board meeting. One panel is especially offensive to me so I can understand the sentiments that have been expressed tonight.
“I also understand that history cannot be erased. But the problem that I have with the monument is that we’re not really teaching about history. I think this is an opportunity for us to really teach the history. Now, there are two opportunities that we have. We can remove the monument and put the monument in a Confederate cemetery, which we have in this community. Or, we can take another step, and that is to use interpretative markers that are used in national parks and national monuments all over this country to really explain the history.”
Schulz went on to say the discussion needs to take place and encouraged the Chairman and the BOC to determine what kind of forum needs to take place for the discussion.
District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson talked about growing up in a segregated Newton County and called for the county to establish an African-American history museum.
“We need an Afro American historical museum to display history so that our children who don’t know anything about the struggle can know about it,” he said.
Chairman Marcello Banes told citizens and commissioners that he has prayed about the topic since it was first brought up in June.
“I want everybody to really understand this. Ever since this has been going on, I want to tell you what the chairman does,” he said. “I get up and I come over here and walk around the square and pray. Newton County is not going to be place where blacks and whites are against each other. It’s just not.
“This room is not for that. This is not what Newton County is about. Our kids, they don’t need to see what eventually this is going to come to if it doesn’t stop.”
Banes explained that in order to get something on the BOC agenda, three commissioners have to agree to it.
“The procedure is if you want to get that on the agenda, you talk to three commissioners. That’s the procedure. And if you can get them to put it on the agenda, it’s on the agenda,” he said.
He continued, “We come here to handle the business of Newton County. I’m going to keep walking around every morning until this place becomes a place of peace. I’m praying for peace in this place.
“We’re not going to divide this county. We’re not going to divide this community. This is not Virginia. It’s not. And it’s not going to be Virginia. I don’t care who likes it or don’t like it, it’s not going to be Virginia.”
At the end of his comments, Banes invited anyone who wants to talk to him to make an appointment.