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Confederate-era statues vandalized at Atlanta's historic Oakland Cemetery

Some of the spray-painted graffiti included profanity and racially offensive remarks.

ATLANTA — According to Atlanta Police, several monuments in the Civil War section of the city's historic Oakland Cemetery were vandalized on Sunday, Feb. 28. 

A police report from Sunday morning said that the monuments were defaced with spray-painted profanity and racially offensive remarks. It also indicated that the act may have happened overnight. 

According to the police report, officers spoke with a cemetery employee who told them that there is security on-site, but the only camera on the property is at the entrance. 

Two of the monuments - the Lion of the Confederacy, also known as the Lion of Atlanta statue, and the Confederate Obelisk - are located in the Civil War section of the cemetery. 

The two statues represent the early years of Confederate memorialization which focused on mourning the loss of life, as opposed to the Jim Crow-era and more recent Confederate memorials.

The obelisk was erected in 1873 by the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association to honor the Confederate dead. The Lion of the Confederacy memorial statue was also erected and dedicated by the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association in 1894. It serves as a headstone for the 3,000 unknown Confederate dead buried in the cemetery. 

This is not the first time that vandalism has happened in the cemetery. And though there have been calls to re-evaluate Confederate memorials, there are very specific state laws governing Confederate monuments in Georgia.

Under Georgia law, if a monument is removed, it "must be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county or municipality.” The law also states "they can’t be moved to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum unless that’s where it was originally placed."  

The monuments have remained in place in an effort to place them in their proper context in history. In an effort to help in that regard, the city of Atlanta, which owns the cemetery and statues, has placed contextual panels to explain the monuments and their place in history. 

RELATED: New markers placed with Atlanta's Confederate monuments adding modern info about racism

The panels were developed by city officials, working together with officials from the Atlanta History Center, along with historians and scholars from Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University.

Because the statues are located in a cemetery, with expository markers, they provide a means to include the full history of the Civil War.

As opposed to glorifying the Confederacy, the contextual markers refer to the Lost Cause ideology in the South and beyond.

The Historic Oakland Foundation, which runs the cemetery, said that dialogue and debate are necessary for civil discourse as Atlanta continues to wrestle with its place in history and its meaning. 

"This is a vital, ongoing process for a vibrant civil society; it helps form a deeper, richer understanding of who we are and the values we decide to uplift or de-emphasize," the foundation said in a statement. "Historic Oakland Foundation wants the families of those buried at Oakland and visitors to Oakland to feel welcome and safe. We are committed to providing a space for our city to hold difficult conversations as we work collectively to form a more beloved community."


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