Commission approves Confederate statue removal

Published 1:46 pm Thursday, February 3, 2022

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By Neil B. McGahee

Managing Editor

Just before retiring to executive session, the Cordele City Commission approved the removal of the Confederate statue from the grounds of the Community Clubhouse at Seventh Street and 16th Avenue.

“What is the status of the removal of the Confederate Memorial at the Community Clubhouse?” Ward 3 Commissioner Isaac Owens asked, “The previous commission talked about it but nothing was ever finalized — it was just left hanging.”

Owens was referring to a July 2020 meeting where a motion and second were made to remove the statue based on a petition with about 8,000 signatures demanding removal of the monument.

But there was a catch.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument in 1911. So what is the City of Cordele’s responsibility regarding the statue?

Commissioner Wesley Rainey said a trustee gave the property to the city from an estate and no city tax dollars has gone into maintaining the property. He said the city doesn’t own the clubhouse or the statue.

That didn’t deter Owens from arguing for removal.

“We have talked about it at length,” he said. “

I make a motion that whatever it takes, that the Confederate Memorial statue be taken down an moved to another location.”

“There is a statute about this,” City Attorney Tommy Coleman said. “And it provides criminal penalties for removal of a Confederate memorial.”

“When you say criminal, how does that?” Owens asked.

Coleman replied that he thought it was a bad statute.

“What if the city moves it?” Owens said.

“We did a lot of research on this and concluded that the city doesn’t really own the statue,” Coleman said. “It belongs to the United Daughters of the Confederacy but it sits on city land and they said they don’t really care.”

“Well, why don’t we move it,” Owens asked.

“Well, the statute specifies that you can’t move it with the intent to hide it,” Coleman said.

Owens said more than 8,000 signatures were on a petition to remove the statue.

“Well, we aren’t going to be afraid,” Deriso said. “We have already passed a motion to remove it.

Coleman interrupted him saying they needed three commissioners approve it…

“No it takes a majority,” Deriso replied. “I read the statutes and it says all it takes is a majority.”

Coleman said he had read the statutes too and held his position although he said the chair could vote.

“No, no, no,” yelled Deriso, “It’s my meeting and I say it passed. It has been approved that the Confederate Memorial statue be removed from the grounds of the Community Clubhouse and moved to a legal place according to the state laws location.

Again Deriso called for a motion.

“I make a motion that whatever it takes,” Owens repeated. “That the Confederate Memorial statue sitting on the grounds of the Community Clubhouse be taken down and moved to another legal location.”

The expected flash point of the meeting — the suspension of Royce Reeves, Sr. from the City Commission by Gov. Brian Kemp  — didn’t live up to its billing.

As Reeves sat in the audience, Dr. Andrew Whitest delivered a rambling diatribe that related Reeves’ suspension to everything bad that ever happened to African-Americans and placed solid blame on the white news media for not exposing it.
Although city commission rules specify that speakers be allotted five minutes, Deriso allowed Whitest an additional five minutes to finish his speech.
In other business, the Cordele City Commission also:

  • Heard testimony from three non-profits about the need for them to use the old Boys and Girls Club building
  • After the second reading of an ordinance, the Commission approved the annexation into the corporate limits of the city property owned by Wells Properties, LLC
  • Repealed Section 12.5 of the City Code of and adopted a new section 12.5 clarifying entitled demonstrations and parades.
  • Entered executive session for the purpose of discussing personnel, litigation, real estate and legal matter.

The Cordele City Commission will meet for a work session on Feb.15 at 4:30 pm followed by a regular meeting at 5:30 pm.