STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) — A grassroots group and local religious leaders held a prayer event Tuesday on Stone Mountain, calling for the removal of a Confederate flag and other reminders of the Civil War at the park boasting a massive carving of Confederate leaders.
The gathering included impassioned prayer and pleas for change at the park, which is popular with hikers and sightseers and features a huge mountainside carving of Southern secessionists Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Around the park, quotes from Confederate soldiers and leaders adorn benches, statues and plaques on the ground. Members of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition want those reminders gone.
“Yeah, in the 1950s and 60s, the state legislator and the governor at that time began transforming the mountain into – weaponizing the symbols of the Confederacy to demonstrate to Black people in Georgia that this was not a place" where they were welcome, said Ryan Gravel, one of several co-founders of the coalition.
The group sought to put its concerns to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association at its meeting scheduled Tuesday. But that meeting was canceled, as was a previously scheduled meeting in September where possible changes were expected to be discussed.
Some in the area have loudly suggested blasting the hotly debated carving off the face of the mountain. Others want to start slower by renaming roadways such as Robert. E Lee Blvd. and taking down the Confederate flag that flies high near the base of the mountain.
“We would like to see the carving be transformed into a natural space. We hope that they can help the growth – the natural flora and fauna – to just take over the carving itself and green over. And just let it grow and let it move back into a natural space. It was a man’s job to carve that mountain. This mountain is a beautiful mountain and it’s been decimated,” said Meymoona Freeman, co-chair of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition.
The Stone Mountain Memorial Association is a State of Georgia authority which maintains all public areas at the park. They've scheduled another meeting for November.
The park is located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of downtown Atlanta.