Decatur, GA — The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will soon consider removing the controversial “Indian War” cannon from the Decatur Square. The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Ted Terry on Sept. 28 and was backed by Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.
The board did not make a final decision Tuesday morning about removing the cannon. The resolution was deferred for two weeks, so it can be considered by a committee before the Board of Commissioners votes on the resolution.
The cannon was placed in Decatur in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and memorializes the removal of Indigenous peoples following the Creek Indian War of 1836. The war was a consequence of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which President Andrew Jackson strongly supported, according to a report from the National Park Service. In 1821, Georgia forced the sale of half of the remaining Creek land, including the land that is now the city of Decatur, which was taken by white settlers in a land lottery.
The UDC also installed a confederate monument that was removed in 2020. The Decatur City Commission in December adopted a resolution in support of the cannon’s removal.
The cannon is not publicly owned and is not a monument as defined by state law, according to the resolution. The cannon will be moved to an appropriate storage facility within 90 days.
Members of the community continued to encourage the commissioners to remove the cannon. Some have suggested replacing the cannon with a memorial or artwork that commemorates Indigenous people and also educates the public.
With Indigenous People’s Day approaching on Oct. 11, Paul McLennan, a member of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, asked the board to take action, pass the resolution and remove the genocide cannon. Beacon Hill has gathered more than 1,800 signatures on a petition in favor of removal. He shared some comments that accompanied the signatures.
“No need for a cannon on public property that commemorates the decimation of Indigenous people and their forced removal,” McLennan said when sharing the comments. “There are many great moments in DeKalb history that could be commemorated with a statue. All of them I’d be proud to show my Black son. This cannon isn’t on that list.”
Others said that the community shouldn’t celebrate genocide and said the cannon re-traumatizes Creek and other Indigenous people.
Some also said they want to walk through Decatur knowing the city and county stand for justice, not violence and suppression. They also advocated for the need to stop whitewashing history and come to terms with the hateful, violent roots of white supremacy.
“We need to listen to and amplify the voices that a white supremacist society relentlessly tries to silence. Symbols rooted in hate do not belong in our public space,” McLennan said while sharing the comments. “Replace the cannon with a symbol that honors the lives of Indigenous people that will make them feel welcome back in their homeland.”
The Rev. Karen Bryant Shipp, minister of music at Oakhurst Baptist Church, also supports removing the cannon.
“Mounted in the Square in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the cannon memorializes the malicious, violent removal of the Muscogee Creek Nation from their homes in Georgia, including what is now Decatur, and later from Alabama,” Bryant Shipp said. “It glorifies the Euro-centric Christian nationalism of the white settlers who first drove the Muscogee from the land.”
She and others demanded that the resolution be passed and acted upon without further delay.
“Given John Lewis’ unwavering support for justice for Indigenous peoples, it would be a travesty for a statue celebrating his life and work to be erected just feet away from a cannon used in the effort to disinherit and annihilate the Muscogee Nation,” she said. “Do not allow this relic to remain in [the] Decatur Square silently broadcasting its message of hate and racism and genocide.”