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Supporters of Confederate monument interrupt press conference calling for statue's removal

Activists gathered in front of the Douglas County Courthouse to call for the removal of a Confederate statue and were immediately met with opposition.

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — Supporters of a Confederate monument in Douglas County interrupted a Thursday afternoon press conference calling for the statue’s removal.

A group of activists gathered in front of the Douglas County Courthouse to call for the removal of a the Confederate statue

Triana Arnold James, president of the Georgia Nation Organization of Women, started the press conference with what she believes the monument stands for. 

“The Confederacy represents a terrible time in the United States," she said. "It represents hatred and it represents the oppression of Black and brown people.”

But, she was immediately met with yells from people who disagree with removing the statue. At one point, James asked opponents to hear her and the other speakers out. However, many on the other side continued to yell, forcing James to continue by yelling over them.

“I’m going to ignore you, because you’re trying to bring me to a place where I’m not going to go,” James said. 

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The statue in question was erected in 1914, by the Douglasville Chapter of the United Daughter of the Confederacy. Meant to represent Douglas County heroes, the statue was moved to the courthouse in 1998. 

James pointed to the current diversity in the county, explaining the county no longer looks like it once did in 1914 or even 1998. 

“It is very evident this statue does not represent some people,” James, a U.S. Army veteran said over yells from critics.

At one point, James asked the crowd to sing and chant to drown out the other side, however, cries from the other side continued for the entirety of the press conference. 

Brandon Pennamon, founder of the community development group Fit for the Future, also delivered his remarks over yells from monuments supporters. 

“Those veterans, they were fighting for their life, and that is real and understandable, but their livelihood came from the free work of slaves. That is the issue,” Pennamon said. “This statue has a place, and it’s place is within a museum.”

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During a short moment of quiet, Christina Peterson, Douglas County Probate Court Judge Elect, said she supported removing the statue and called for change in the justice system in the county. 

“My goal in Douglas County, is justice for all,” Peterson, a former prosecutor said. 

After the press conference, Caesar Gonzales, who interrupted speakers consistently by yelling over them, told 11Alive he believes the monument should stay because descendants of Confederate soldiers should have a chance to see their families honored. 

“Why is that wrong for that to happen? Why don’t we have a monument to represent the other side.”

Gonzales, who ran for Georgia Congress under the slogan, "Make District 13 Great Again," called the press conference and activists' movement a political stunt. He explained he believes removing the statue only creates further division in the community. 

“Why not have several monuments to represent the diversity of the community, not just one faction saying what everyone else has to do?” he asked.

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During the interview with 11Alive, activists approached and called Gonzales out for interrupting their scheduled press conference. 

“You were being rude, so were going to do the same thing to you. Don't interrupt people while they're speaking,” a few people yelled. One person in the crowd said if the other side feels passionate about keeping the monument, they should hold their own press conference. 

Gonzales, then seemed to mock one female speaker, by mimicking her head movements and said, ”Oh, so we’re going to even the odds, huh? Oh, I get it.”

When supporters of the monument said activists had their chance to talk, Pennamon responded, "We couldn't get our message across because he (Gonzales) was talking while we were talking."

Eventually, everyone went their separate ways, agreeing to disagree. James added she would love to hold a forum, so both sides could discuss the issue. 

Activists added it’s a “difficult conversation to have” but believed without talking about the issues of slavery, justice and the monument - no one can move forward. 

James said, “If we want to talk about equal justice on the inside of the courthouse, then we have to talk about equal representation on the outside of the courthouse.”

Meanwhile, Gonzales said whether the statue remains or not should be put up for a vote for residents in the county.

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