Bill designed to protect monuments heads to Georgia governor's desk

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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
April 1, 2019

VALDSOTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- State leaders in Georgia are pushing to protect Confederate monuments with a new bill that is now waiting on a signature from Governor Brian Kemp.

The bill comes at a time when many communities across the south are calling to remove Confederate monuments.

Supporters of the bill say it's meant to protect all monuments, not just those dedicated to the Confederacy. While the bill is on its way to the governor's desk, it hasn't been without plenty of opposition.

In the state House and Senate, the bill passed by just a narrow majority.

The bill says anyone who damages a monument can be liable for three times the repair costs and enacts strict guidelines on where, and why, monuments can be moved.

Valdosta State professor Dr. Michael Noll is now researching remembrance culture. He disagrees with the bill, saying monuments don't tell the whole story and leave out part of our history.

He also says while monuments shouldn't be removed, a conversation needs to be had about what they stand for.

"When you remove a monument, you basically create a silence, you remove the ability or the possibility to have a discussion," Dr. Noll said. "What we need to do is to put those Confederate monuments into context, we have to ask ourselves what are these monuments really about?"

Noll said the bill could contribute to a 'bubble' where Confederacy is romanticized, rather than acknowledging the full reality of our nation's history.

"We need to put the Confederacy, experiences of a confederate history, slavery, racism, into that courthouse where here in Valdosta and elsewhere suddenly realize, that for about half of the population, the confederacy is a painful memory, while the other half may pretend it not to be the case. We need to find that balance, that's where additive history comes in," Noll said.

When asked about the monument that is outside of the old courthouse in Valdosta, Lowndes County officials say they have not received any requests that it be moved, but they have received feedback asking that it be protected.

Tuesday is the last day of Georgia's 2019 legislative session.