Protesters vandalized and attempted to take down the Peace Monument in Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sunday, mistaking it for a pro-Confederate statue.
The protesters were marching in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday where one woman died after being deliberately hit by a car, and two law enforcement personnel were killed when the helicopter they were in crashed.
“The Atlanta march traveled from Woodruff Park to Piedmont Park Sunday, where some damaged the Peace Monument, erected in 1911,” a blog on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website said. “The sculpture features an angel standing above a Confederate soldier, guiding him to lay down his weapon.”
But the memorial attacked by protesters — some dressed in black and wearing masks — was erected to encourage healing and reconciliation:
“When the Civil War broke out, members of an Atlanta militia called the Gate City Guard were among the first to take up arms against the North,” the AJC blog said. “Afterward, some survivors became part of what would eventually become the Georgia National Guard.”
“Others, who felt they were too old to fight any longer, took up the cause for reconciliation,” according to AJC.
“These guys realized a national healing needed to take place,” Thornton Kennedy, a history buff in Atlanta, said about the inspiration or the Peace Monument.
“They organized a peace tour of the North, which is really remarkable,” Kennedy said. “These were guys who fought in the Civil War, against Union troops.”
“They would go meet with Union soldiers and began to repair those fissures the war created,” Kennedy said. “It speaks to what we call the Atlanta spirit.”
“No one, of course, suggests that 1911 Atlanta was the progressive bastion of equality, diversity and inclusion that modern-day Atlanta enjoys,” the blog said. “Jim Crow was the law of the land back then. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was decades away. Women were still nine years from having the right to vote.”
But those behind the monument seemed to be ahead of their time, the outlet reported.
According to AJC, “The Peace Monument erected that year was something of harbinger of Atlanta’s reputation during the 1960s Civil Rights era as the ‘City Too Busy to Hate.’”
“I think Atlanta has done a fairly good job of putting the Civil War in context and moving on from it,” Kennedy said. “I do want everyone to know the history of that statue and know that it truly is a peace monument.”
“The former Gate City Guard has given way to a civic group called the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard, whose members participate in historic commemorations including an annual rededication of the Peace Monument,” AJC continued.
Past commandant John Green told the AJC he hopes the Peace Monument will be restored in time for this fall’s ceremony.
“We would like for people to know what it is,” he said.