Post Press Release: Charlottesville Response and Confederate Monument Conversation

For Immediate Release
By  Richad Banton-AADM PR

Photo courtesy of Daniel Borremans

Athens, Ga – The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement hosted “Charlottesville: A Response from Athens” Wednesday at the Athens Public Library.

The event held in the auditorium attracted a standing room only crowd with more than 200 people from the local community in attendance, including families and activists alike. Spurred by the national headlines surrounding the violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Virginia over the weekend, AADM President Mokah Johnson and Vice President Knowa Johnson and  sought a public forum for concerned Athenians to express their raw feelings about the removal of Confederate monuments and the need to fight the disturbing rise of hate groups.
 
“We can’t be afraid, we can’t let white supremacy, we can’t let hate, we can’t let any of those things stop us from standing up for what we believed in,” President Mokah Johnson said in an opening statement following a moment of silence for the loss of Heather Heyer – the single fatality at the Charlottesville rallies where she was rammed by a car.
 
Mokah then showed a brief clip of Charlottesville: Race and Terror by VICE News -HBO displaying the now infamous images of a mass of white supremacists and neo-Nazis storming the University of Virginia, members of the audience shared personal opinions of what the response should look like if a similar rally were to be held in Athens. Most were in agreement that any such group had a constitutional right to a permit, but questioned what limitations that both the city and the activist community could take to avoid a descent in violence.
 
“Part of what really exaggerated the situation in Charlottesville was the amount of weaponry and horrid symbols that were present and I wonder whether they could’ve put restrictions on that,” One audience member suggested.
 
In a brief history lesson before the rereading of the a historic Klanbake speech, moderator Michael Smith chronicled the rise of the Klu Klux Klan in Athens after the success of the explosive movie Birth of a Nation in 1915. In control of local government, the local Klan took vengeance against Athenians that created an anti-KKK pledge in a purity campaign that entailed a series of assaults and arsons to those labeled enemies.
 
Milton Leathers, the night’s keynote speaker, read the famous words that his grandfather spoke at the 1924 Democratic National Convention in front of thousands of Klan members refuting their toxic prejudice and political influence.
 
Speaking to other Georgia delegates to separate themselves from the legacy of the Klan, Cobb implored them “to show the world that no American worthy of the name will bend his knee to this un-American and un-Christian thing”.
 
The last segment centered on the Confederate monument that occupies a place on Broad Street across from The Arch. Local attorney Russell Edwards shared legal options regarding removal of the monument which under Georgia law cannot be destroyed.  But reactions among members of the audience were split about what exactly should be done. One advocated that the monument – a memorial to dead Athenian Confederate soldiers – stay and live side by side with a monument to a memorial of Black Athenians enslaved before the Civil War. Another insisted the display was infuriating and should be moved out from its current position and out of sight.
 
With little time left,  Mokah Johnson led the crowded room, right hand raised in a fist, into a pledge that promised to fight hatred and spread love. The entire audience, standing and enthusiastic, willingly accepted the challenge. 
What’s Next? A follow-up meeting will be held within the next two weeks to further discuss legal options regarding removal of the monument and how”We the People” can create a more inclusive community, stand together, and peacefully push back against hate. For more information email athensantidiscrimination@gmail.com. Please show your support by joining the movement or  by making a donation.

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