Following a prepared statement by member Priscilla McCoy, the Thomaston Community Relations Committee voted 3-1 Monday to recommend that the city relocate its governmental offices out of the building bearing Confederate General Robert Edward Lee’s name.
During her statement, McCoy made comparisons to the Jewish Holocaust and the Jan. 6 incident in Washington, D.C. She said the issue was not one of race but of “wrong or right,” adding that the current facility “honors and glorifies” a man who “fought… to preserve slavery.”
McCoy also was critical of Republican members of the Georgia Legislature and Gov. Brian Kemp.
“Some say it will cost too much to relocate. I believe this would be a short-term investment for a long-term benefit,” McCoy stated. “African-Americans make financial investments in this city and county every day… I don’t think that we should use our revenue to maintain businesses glorifying a slave owner and insurrectionist. This is wrong, period.”
Pastor Greg Smith seconded McCoy’s motion for relocation, but emphasized that the committee should remain open to other recommendations.
“I want to thank Ms. McCoy for her passionate speech. I can tell a lot of thought went into that,” Smith said. “I whole-heartedly agree with everything that you said. I won’t say that would be my only recommendation, but that would be one of the recommendations I would make.”
Chairman Rev. James McGill voted in favor of the recommendation, and committee member Sheila Hall cast the lone vote against sending the suggestion to city council.
Following are portions of McCoy’s prepared comments:
“After considerable self-reflection and introspection, I’ve decided to recommend that the city relocate. This is not a black or white issue, this is a wrong or right issue for me. If the city has another property or building, I recommend renovating it.
“I don’t believe it is morally right or just to continue operating in this facility that honors and glorifies R.E. Lee and the Confederacy that fought to keep human beings as slaves, fought to overthrow our government in order to preserve slavery.
“The Georgia Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Brian Kemp… cemented those beliefs when they passed and Kemp signed legislation into law handcuffing local governments from doing that which is right, moral, and just.
“Some have talked about contextualization. I thought about this long and hard, and came to a decision that it would not work for this building. The name is still honoring and glorifying wrong. We would be saying that we agree with R.E. Lee trying to overthrow the government to preserve slavery… How could we possibly contextualize this?
“How would Jewish people feel doing business in a building with Adolph Hitler’s name in big, bold letters on the outside and an auditorium inside, honoring Hitler and others who put them in interment camps and slaughtered their ancestors, thus glorifying and honoring the Holocaust? Should the city council be remembered for this?
“I know that not all committee members feel the same way. Some want it to remain as is and see nothing wrong with honoring slave owners who fought against our country to preserve the South’s ‘way of life.’
“This city will be celebrated honoring Juneteenth next year. How are you going to honor freed slaves and honor the slave owner and insurrectionist? That would be like honoring those individuals on Jan. 6, 2021 who fought to overthrow our democracy in order to preserve a lie.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot do it. It would be your decision, city council, to accept or reject the recommendation. What will you stand for in this moment? Right or wrong? There is no in between.”
The recommendation will be forwarded to the city council, which meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 20.