City of Augusta responds to Riverwalk Legal Action, requests jury trial
August 19, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The city of Augusta, the city commission and the former mayor have responded as required by law to the suit filed against them by the Georgia Heritage Council and others on behalf of the people of Georgia.
In their pleading, the city denies responsibility under Georgia law for removing flags and memorial markers from a public city sponsored park, the Riverwalk, on the basis that the part of the park from which the flags and memorial markers were removed was not a military memorial, but a ‘flag terrace.’
They also requested a jury trial.
Noting the city response, Woody Highsmith, GHC director in Augusta, said, "It is mystifying that the city now wants a public jury to undertake the work the city should have considered a long time ago. I specifically refer to the fact that former Mayor Young removed the flags and markers unilaterally without consulting the commission or the public."
Former Mayor Young nor any of the commission members have denied the unannounced removal of the 2nd National Confederate flag, known as the Stainless Banner, and obscuring the markers.
Likewise, they have not denied consensus press reports that the removals were done at the request of the South Carolina NAACP which held a convention in Augusta shortly after the removals.
In their joint pleading before the court, the former mayor and all commissioners claim the flags and memorials removed had no military significance and were not located in a section dedicated to military heroes, but rather in a flag terrace. The flag terrace still remains absent the 2nd National Confederate flags and markers.
"We tried every way we knew to communicate and work out a solution to have the flags and memorials returned to avoid a lawsuit. I personally wrote the mayor and each of the commissioners requesting suggestions for a suitable resolution of the situation. Not one responded," said Jeff Davis, GHC Chairman.
"This is a situation that could have been more successfully handled as we have done in similar cases elsewhere. It seems to me that the cooperation extended to the South Carolina NAACP has been denied the citizens of Georgia. Now the taxpayers of Augusta and Richmond County are socked with not only the expense of a potentially long and protracted lawsuit, but also the label as an ‘anti-Southern’ and ‘anti-heritage’ city. I don’t think this is fair to the people of Augusta and Richmond County. That area has great history and heritage. It’s a shame that pandering politicians want to destroy it," Davis said.
Former Mayor Young is now serving as the Regional Director of Housing and Urban Development in Atlanta. He was appointed to the position by President Bush after being endorsed by Governor Sonny Perdue.
Realizing the importance of this court test of the Georgia statues regarding desecration of any military memorials, Mr. Highsmith said, "We’re in a fight for everything we hold dear in this case. We need the help of everyone who believes in the common sense of stopping pressure groups and public politicians from taking away every last vestige of our history and our culture. This case is a culture war, pure and simple. Please help us by sending whatever you can. Even one dollar."