Breaking news update: KKK sign could return to downtown building
The pro-Ku Klux Klan sign that caused a stir in downtown Dahlonega on Thursday could be returning to the Public Square as early as next week, according to city officials. And all signs point to specific political motives for its placement.
"An employee on behalf of landowner Roberta [Green-Garrett] has picked up an application to put the sign back on the building," said Mayor Gary McCullough Friday morning. "That's all I'm allowed to say about it."
That sign deemed the old Piazza building a "Historic Ku Klux Klan Meeting Hall."
Local historian Chris Worick said there is no basis for this claim and pointed out that the KKK has repeatedly failed to gain traction in Lumpkin County.
The building does have a more recent history of controversy as Green-Garrett has repeatedly applied to tear down the neighboring Parks Building structure and replace it with a luxury hotel.
Various versions of that plan have been denied by the city council and the planning & zoning board.
For more than a year, local preservation groups and protesters have argued that the neighboring century-old Parks Building has "historic" significance and cannot be torn down.
Now city officials find themselves faced with the possibility of a pro-KKK banner in the heart of a downtown district that is vital to Dahlonega's tourism economy.
"If it meets the requirements we can't regulate what it says," McCullough said. "The U.S. Supreme Court says so."
Though officials initially suspected that the sign was an act of vandalism, Sheriff Stacy Jarrard confirmed that Green-Garrett has not filed any criminal trespass charges.
"I thought that it could have been someone, possibly a renter, that could have placed the sign but it's looking like that's not what happened," he said.
Yesterday Dahlonega made headline news in Atlanta as protesters gathered beneath the KKK banner with signs of their own.
Valerie Fambrough was one of the first on the scene with a poster that read "Not in My Town."
Sarah Smallwood soon joined her with a sign that read: "I was raised in a town of love not hate!"
City officials were able to remove the banner since it violated a sign ordinance. However, they had no grounds to remove the pair of flags emblazoned with the KKK crest and the Confederate emblem. For that they needed permission from building owner Green-Garrett, who was vacationing in Florida.
As the crowd grew, The Nugget contacted Green-Garrett and asked her if she planned to have the KKK flag removed.
She initially said she needed more information on the situation.
An hour later the flags were taken down.
Since the latest development at city hall, Friday morning calls to Green-Garrett have not been returned.
Meanwhile, a "unity march" has been organized by the Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church in response to the sign and is scheduled for later today, Feb. 17.
Look to next week's edition of The Nugget for a detailed account of this story and check www.thedahloneganugget.com for further updates.