published Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Fort Oglethorpe mayor decries footage featuring guns, dynamite

Former charter
committee member Sunny Winston, who says
she resigned after
her house was
egged, listens
during a meeting
Wednesday at the
Fort Oglethorpe,
Ga., City Hall.
Mayor Lynn Long
called the meeting to denounce
a video aired on
local television
depicting armed
men storming a
city hall building
in Athens, Tenn.,
to combat corruption in 1946. The
mayor claims the
violent video puts
city officials
“at risk."
Former charter committee member Sunny Winston, who says she resigned after her house was egged, listens during a meeting Wednesday at the Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., City Hall. Mayor Lynn Long called the meeting to denounce a video aired on local television depicting armed men storming a city hall building in Athens, Tenn., to combat corruption in 1946. The mayor claims the violent video puts city officials “at risk."
Photo by Doug Strickland.

A clip from a 1992 Hallmark movie has become the latest political fodder in the bitter contest for control of City Hall in Fort Oglethorpe.

Mayor Lynn Long called an emergency meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday to decry his political opponents' use of footage from "An American Story." The made-for-TV movie depicts the 1946 "Battle of Athens," in Athens, Tenn., when newly returned World War II veterans and others did armed battle with McMinn County deputies and sheriff's candidate Paul Cantrell, a political boss whose regime they accused of corruption and voter fraud.

The PG-rated movie's climax shows the veterans arming themselves with rifles before they surround the two-story county jail and dynamite its door off. They order Cantrell's forces to bring ballot boxes down to the street so votes can be counted in public.

That roughly five-minute climactic scene was played Monday night on "A Time for Change," a show on Fort Oglethorpe public access TV channel UCTV hosted by Steve Cooper and Jeff Long, two opponents of the current majority on the City Council. Long, the former city public works director, was dismissed suddenly March 22 along with Police Chief David Eubanks after City Manager Ron Goulart was forced to resign.

Long replayed the cable access show's footage at City Hall on Wednesday before a small group of residents and a row of TV news cameras and reporters.

"If you dislike what [elected officials] do, go to the polls and vote them out," Long said. "But don't show violent films on TV shows that, in my opinion, put us all at risk."

Long then invited two other people to speak whose homes were egged Sunday night: Councilman Clay Kissner, who said he found a crumpled note that said "Just resign," and Sunny Winston, the 85-year-old widow of former Councilman George Winston.

Kissner said he felt "violated" by the egging.

"Enough is enough," he said. "This has gotten out of hand and out of control."

Cooper, who's the chairman of a state-appointed committee reviewing Fort Oglethorpe's charter, attended the meeting.

"It's a political stunt. That's all it is," Cooper said. "I made it clear in the front end of that clip that we don't support violence."

A reasonable person could watch the clip, he said, without wanting to pick up weapons and attack City Hall.

Winston was a member of the charter review committee that Cooper leads, but she said she resigned. She said the committee has an agenda, including against Kissner, who's related to her by marriage. After her house was egged, Winston said she found a note that said, "Back off."

"I pray for my enemies," Winston said. "I pray that they'll get their minds straight."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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