Lafayette’s Kevin Smith spent three years building a Civil War display in the front yard of his North Georgia home, a homage complete with life-sized mannequins set up to depict different battles fought locally.
“It’s history and it’s heritage and it’s not hate,” Smith told WRCB. “A presentation. Because I’ve tried to put the display around town so our tourists can see the history and draw tourism down here.”
But the city’s Housing Authority served Smith with a notice Thursday that contends officials received complaints and requests that Smith call the office.
“I have had complaints about the mannequins and Confederate flag. Sorry but they have to go,” the notice read.
It did not detail who made the alleged complaints or cite any specific safety or code violations.
Regardless, Smith said he doesn’t plan on removing the display he’s worked so hard to perfect.
“I’m standing my ground. This is a part of our history,” said Smith, who donned the same Civil War regalia as his front yard soldiers. “It is to educate so we don’t fight another war.”
WRCB reports that “based on the notice he was provided, it’s not clear when the display must be removed or what action the Housing Authority plans to take if it is not.”
The incident in Georgia is the latest in a widespread movement to remove all traces of the Old South from public display that seemingly began after a racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last summer. The accused gunman, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, liked to pose with the Confederate flag on Facebook.
It prompted state officials to remove the Confederate Flag from the capitol, and ignited calls to remove the symbol from public displays across the country, a movement that’s devolved to now include renaming of schools and other public spaces dedicated to Civil War heroes, presidents, or anything or anyone remotely connected to the antebellum south.
Most recently, public schools have banned students from displaying the Confederate flag on their vehicles, and the U.S. House last month voted to remove the flags from cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Last week, in the lead up to the June 17 anniversary of the Charleston shooting, South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove a Confederate flag from a Citadel chapel and relocate it to a museum, The State reports.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she supports removing the symbol from some public spaces, but does not support the broader effort to remove all references to the Old South.
The Confederate flag is a “flying, living, breathing, representative symbol,” Haley told the news site. “You can’t have that representation there and have children drive by and think they don’t belong.”
“If you start to go back in history for South Carolina, you’d be replacing every street sign, every building. … Our goal is not to erase history,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure every child felt welcome at State House grounds.”