STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. - Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, has called for the removal of Confederate memorial carvings on Stone Mountain.
Abrams, a former Georgia House Minority Leader and current state representative, tweeted Tuesday morning that the carvings remain a “blight on our state and should be removed.”
According to Stone Mountain Park’s website, the “Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.”
A dedication ceremony for the Confederate Memorial Carving was held on May 9, 1970, and finishing touches were completed in 1972, the website said.
“Confederate monuments belong in museums where we can study and reflect on that terrible history, not in places of honor across our state,” tweeted Abrams. “Paid for by founders of the 2nd KKK, the monument had no purpose other than celebration of racism, terror & division when carved in 1915.
A statement from Governor Nathan Deal's office said:
"Stone Mountain is set up and preserved by state law as a Confederate memorial. In fact, the law that changed the state flag expressly prohibited any changes at Stone Mountain Park. Many on both sides of the argument have said that these Confederate symbols belong in places where we view historical artifacts, such as museums. In Georgia, where these symbols are no longer on our state flag or on Capitol grounds, Stone Mountain serves that purpose."
"The Confederacy is a scourge that we have to address and as we learned from Charlottesville and what happened last night in Durham, symbols matter," said Abrams. "I think at Stone Mountain Park, the managers have done their best to create a space for people to learn and I believe that the Confederate monuments in Georgia should not destroyed, I believe they belong in museums where we can study their history, but when one of those monuments is the largest bas relief in the nation and it stands on state property, I think that is a very, very important symbol and one that we should reject."
The carving, according to FAQs posted on the park's website, "depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson." It spans three acres and is as deep as 12 feet.
Removing the carving, however, would prove difficult.
"Stone Mountain is set up and preserved by state law as a Confederate memorial," said Governor Nathan Deal in a statement to FOX 5. "In fact, the law that changed the state flag expressly prohibited any changes at Stone Mountain Park. Many on both sides of the argument have said that these Confederate symbols belong in places where we view historical artifacts, such as museums. In Georgia, where these symbols are no longer on our state flag or on Capitol grounds, Stone Mountain serves that purpose."
Rep. Abrams said she believes it is time for our state to reconsider.
"I think they took leadership by removing those--by removing the flag, but we cannot stand still and we have to return and restore our commitment to pushing back on and exorcizing the demons of white supremacy from our state. And taking down that monument is a step in that direction," said Rep. Abrams.
Leadership with the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said they would be willing to go to court to preserve Stone Mountain and do not believe that it or any other Confederate monuments should be changed.
"We would oppose the movement of any monument anywhere whether they say a museum or whether she says go to a park, we don't want it moved to start with," said Commander Scott K. Gilbert. "If it does have to be moved, then we would respectfully ask that we determine where it goes."
Experts estimate altering the Stone Mountain carving would cost millions of dollars. Rep. Abrams said she did not have any information about how much the project would cost, but suggested that crowd-sourcing could pay for it.
"I think that we have made choices as Americans where we have placed the lives of our citizens above the price tag and this is a moment where we have to make a similar decision. But I have absolutely no question that we would be able to raise a sufficient amount of money to remove that, that carving," Rep. Abrams concluded.
Opponents of Abrams were quick to respond to her statements. Republican Michael Williams released the following statement:
“Democrat candidate Stacey Abrams’ call to blast the face off Stone Mountain is complete nonsense. This is nothing more than a desperate attempt to change the media coverage of her supporters shouting down her opponent for having white skin. Once again, the media is rushing to aide their most liberal allies and ignore racists in the Democrat Party.
“I want to know where Stacey draws the line. Will she demand we blow up the Jefferson Memorial and knock down the Washington Monument? Let me make myself clear: I do not support defacing Stone Mountain or any of our monuments and I do not support rewriting Georgia’s history.
“Stacey’s reckless statement provides more insight into why the House Democrat Caucus rejected her hand-picked successor. All Georgians should reject her campaign intended to incite racial division!”