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New state senate bill could force those who deface Confederate memorials to pay for damages

SB 77 says no publicly owned monument in honor of any military service, past or present can be moved, altered or removed.

ATLANTA — Multiple bills have been introduced in the General Assembly this session which would provide for the removal of Confederate monuments around the state, up to and including the Confederate carving on Stone Mountain itself.

One bill -- SB 77 -- has been introduced by a North Georgia Republican State Senator, which would force any and all monuments currently in place in the state to remain where they are, period.

In the language of the bill Jeff Mullis (R - 53rd District, Chickamauga) has proposed, no publicly owned monument in honor of any military service, past or present, US or Confederate, can be moved, altered or removed.

RELATED | Bill would outlaw Confederate displays on public property

"No publicly owned monument erected, constructed, created or maintained on the public property of this state or its agencies, departments, authorities or instrumentalities in honor of the military service of any past or present military personnel of this state, the United States of America or the several states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or the several states thereof," the bill says, in part. "Shall be relocated, removed, concealed, obscured or altered in any fashion by any officer or agency."

In addition, Mullis' bill would make anyone who does so financially responsible for triple the amount of damages to any monument, should it occur.

The bill provides an exception for construction of buildings, roads or other transportation projects. But if the monument must be relocated for such a purpose, it must be relocated to a "site of similar prominence, honor, visibility and access within the same county or municipality," the bill says.

Moreover, it emphasizes that the monument cannot be "relocated to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum, unless it was originally placed at such a location."

The Confederate memorial carving on the north face of Stone Mountain was conceived in the early 20th Century, when the mountain was owned by Sam and William Venable, supporters of the Ku Klux Klan. 

The United Daughters of the Confederacy encouraged the development of the memorial and hired Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore, to design the carving for the mountain in the early 1920s.

Multiple delays -- both construction and financial -- pushed work on the mountain back to well beyond World War II.

Meanwhile, the KKK held annual cross burnings on the property on Labor Day weekend, which only ended when the state purchased the property in 1958. 

In 1958, the mountain was sold to the state of Georgia, and funds were finally secured for the completion of the carving.

RELATED | Counter-protesters march through streets of Stone Mountain after park remains closed

Stone Mountain Park officially opened in 1965, and the carving was finally completed in 1972.

Currently, the park enjoys a unique status, which allows the flying of historic Confederate flags and the placement of other Confederate statues on its grounds. SB 77 would allow this status to continue unimpeded, as opposed to the other bills, which could potentially pave the way for the removal of the memorial.

Though Stone Mountain Park is owned by the state today, it is operated by Atlanta-based Herschend Family Entertainment, a private theme park operator which runs a number of attractions across the nation, including Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.


Counter-protesters march through streets of Stone Mountain after park remains closed

Georgia bill would outlaw Confederate displays on public property