City of Savannah finds possible loophole in state’s monument law

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Built in 1875, Savannah’s Civil War Memorial to the Confederate dead is one of the city’s most recognizable monuments — and one of the most controversial. 

Prominently featured in Forsyth Park, the monument has been vandalized many times over the years.

The latest incident happened as recently as a week ago.

In 2018, the city wanted to place a plaque on it, explaining that it now represents all Americans who died in the Civil War. There was also a plan to move the nearby McLaws and Bartow Confederate monuments to Laurel Grove Cemetary.

State law prevented both from happening.

Savannah City Attorney Bates Lovett says, “this is among the most strick removal of home rules I have ever seen.”

The law says local governments can’t alter or remove any memorial or monument. However, Lovett says vandalism, and the destruction of similar monuments nationwide, may have created a loophole.

During Thursday’s work session, he told Savannah city aldermen, “the only opportunity that we have to remove these monuments is to preserve and protect these monuments.”

The plan would be to place the McLaws and Bartow statues in storage.

Lovett says there could be lawsuits, and aldermen could even be individually sued.

To that, District 3 Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan said: “I just want to make mention of a soundbite from ‘The Color Purple’ — ‘all my life I had to fight.’ Let’s go.”

Recommendations on how to move forward will go to the city’s Sites and Monuments Committee before the council makes any decision.

During Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Van Johnson suggested the public will be able to give input at some point during the process.

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