The Newton County government will have to wait on a judge’s ruling before removing a century-old Confederate memorial statue from downtown Covington.
Newton County Superior Court Judge John Ott today, July 15, ordered the county not to remove the 114-year-old “To the Confederate Dead of Newton County” statue from the center of the Covington Square until a Monday, July 20, hearing at 9:30 a.m. in Newton County Superior Court.
Ott ordered the hearing in response to Newton County resident Tiffany Humphries’ request filed Monday in Newton County Superior Court which listed Banes and the five members of the board of commissioners as defendants.
The judge said the hearing was needed to clear up some legal issues surrounding the Newton County Commission’s 3-2 vote Tuesday night to remove the statue from its location since 1906.
Among the issues were the county government’s right to sovereign immunity — which generally allows governments to avoid being sued — and the county commission’s vote to remove the statue in light of the 2019 state law protecting such monuments in Georgia, Ott said.
Humphries said today she filed the action Monday in anticipation of the commission’s Tuesday night vote because she “cared about” the state law that is meant to protect Civil War memorials in Georgia.
Spokesman Bryan Fazio said the county government's policy is not to comment on pending litigation.
Commission Chairman Marcello Banes said during the Tuesday night meeting he wanted commissioners to take the action after he heard threats of potential damage to the statue and surrounding downtown area.
County Attorney Megan Martin told commissioners the law appears to allow removal of a memorial statue to protect it from being damaged, or to make way for a road project or building construction.
Humphries said today donations from attendees of a Sunday event related to the statue’s planned removal allowed her to file the injunction, she said
“At least we’re getting a chance to be heard,” Humphries said.
She said an inscription on the statue states those who still supported the Confederacy in 1906 now must “furl” its battle flag — meaning former foes on the battlefield needed to unite under the American flag.
“That’s the message that the world really needs today,” she said.