A committee created to reach consensus on the future of a Confederate monument in downtown Brunswick has agreed to disagree.
The committee approved a motion 5-4 made by former Brunswick Mayor Brad Brown to follow state law and keep the monument where it’s stood since 1902. The motion also included a recommendation to erect a sign near the monument in Hanover Square for additional background on the participation of African-American union soldiers during the American Civil War. The wording on the sign would be written with the help of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.
“There’s no reason to go back and forth,” Brown said before the vote. “Let’s give the commissioners a recommendation.”
Lawyer Rita Spalding acted as moderator for the meeting and urged committee members to reach an agreement in the spirit of consensus. She said everyone has made their positions clear on the issue.
“Now it’s time to move forward,” she said.
Committee member Meredith Trawick objected to Brown’s motion, saying any interpretive sign about African-American union soldiers should not be placed in Hanover Square near the Confederate monument.
“That is a sacred memorial,” she said. “I do not want it up against the memorial.”
She expressed concerns about the explanation of the war’s history if a sign is erected next to the monument.
“I want people to get the truth about the Civil War,” she said.
Chris Wilhelm, associate professor at College of Coastal Georgia, said some committee members would prefer the monument be moved to another location that is consistent with state law.
“We’re not going to convince each other,” he said. “We need to move forward with our disagreements.”
The likely outcome when city commissioners consider the recommendation will be for interpretive signage about the role of African-American soldiers who served in the region during the war, Wilhelm said.
Other committee members said it was important for more public input before city commissioners make a final decision. Spalding expressed confidence there will be more opportunities for public input.
“The motion does not limit the public to continue to speak,” Spalding said. “It’s a motion that narrowly passed.”
City attorney Brian Corry agreed.
“The motion and the vote are not legally binding to the city,” he said.
Brown told committee members close votes can be expected on controversial issues.
“That’s not unusual for a motion to narrowly pass,” he said. “Let the city commissioners decide how to move forward.”