The Dalton branch of the United Daughters of the Confederacy said Friday the group is open to relocating the statue of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston after activists called for the monument to be moved amid nationwide protests and calls to remove and relocate other Confederate statues.
In a statement through the group's attorney, the Bryan M. Thomas Chapter of the group said that members want to come to a peaceful resolution and avoid conflict between the two sides of the issue.
In the statement, the group said it is "ready and willing to consent to the relocation of the monument to another venue in Dalton or Whitfield County," if the Dalton City Council chooses to have it moved.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy own the Johnston statue and has owned it since 1912, when it was first installed. The city of Dalton pays minimal upkeep for the statue, Councilwoman Annalee Harlan said earlier this week.
The statue has been at the center of debate between local protesters and activists — who want the statue moved to a location that would better contextualize its history and significance — and other Dalton residents who want the statue to stay.
On Monday, a protest organized by four Dalton State College students and natives of Dalton drew a crowd of about 200 people, part of a worldwide protest movement in response to the case of George Floyd, an African American man who died under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
The group came up with a substantial list of demands that included increasing funding for social service agencies and public education, diverting funds from jails to rehabilitation efforts, implementing the "8 Can't Wait" list of police reforms that has gained national traction since Floyd's death and most importantly terminating Whitfield County's relationship with federal immigration enforcement officers.
Another issue on the list was removing or relocating the Johnston statue at the intersection of Hamilton and Crawford streets.
Dueling petitions to keep and relocate the statue both have over 4,700 signatures.
The statement from the Daughters of the Confederacy also said the group is concerned about the possibility of protests and marches escalating to violence and hopes people on both sides can keep the peace.
"It has been brought to their attention that further marches, demonstrations, and counter-marches and counter-demonstrations are planned which may involve people and parties from each side of this matter," the statement reads. "We are concerned that, in light of the emotional feelings of each side and volatile state of things in our community and in our nation, that someone could get hurt."
There is a march planned for Saturday in Dalton to honor the life of A.L. McCamy, a black man who was lynched and hanged in Dalton in 1936.
The Daughters of the Confederacy said the group is already looking at possible locations if an agreement is made to have the statue moved.
During the Civil War, Johnston commanded Confederate troops at First Manassas, defended the Confederate capital of Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and participated in the Vicksburg and Atlanta Campaigns in 1863 and 1864.
Johnston and the Confederate Army fought in the areas around Dalton and eventually withdrew and retreated toward Atlanta. On Dec. 27, 1863, in Dalton, Johnston was appointed to command the Army of Tennessee by Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.