BREAKING NEWS: HENRY COUNTY HAD NO CONSTRUCTION PERMIT WHICH ALLOWED THE REMOVAL OF THE CONFEDERATE MONUMENT OR THE REMOVAL OF CITIZENS FROM THE SIDEWALK
(McDONOUGH, GA – 5 September 2020) On July 28, Georgia Minutemen founder Ray McBerry was arrested and charged with a local violation of “obstruction” for refusing to vacate the sidewalk at the McDonough Square when Henry County had a crane company arrive to dismantle and remove the Confederate Monument that had stood on the Square for more than 100 years. The Henry County solicitor’s office offered a plea deal of the minimum fine of $100 and reduction of the charge to a local violation instead of an elevated “state” charge. Today, Mr. McBerry, after speaking with his attorney Todd Harding of Maddox & Harding, announced that he will be pleading “not guilty” at his upcoming arraignment hearing. Ray McBerry has been an active supporter of Southern heritage and constitutional issues for more than 20 years and was a Republican candidate for governor in 2010 when he ran on a platform of States’ Rights. Following the gubernatorial campaign, he became the first “public figure” in Georgia in more than 100 years to win a libel case when the court ordered the defendants in their settlement to sign a confession and apology in addition to a monetary award for lies stated during the governor’s race. He is presently the owner of KBN Television, the only television station to originate in Henry County.
McBerry and the Georgia Minutemen have argued that the Henry County Board of Commissioners is in violation of both civil and criminal law under Georgia Code 50-3-1 in voting to arbitrarily and capriciously remove the Confederate Monument from the McDonough Square where the Monument has sat on county property for more than 100 years. To carry out the unlawful act, the County hired a local crane company, Roper & Sons out of Covington, that was willing to perform the highly unpopular deed of removing the Monument dedicated to their own ancestors in exchange for a payment of approximately $30,000. On Tuesday, July 28, officers from the City of McDonough, Henry County Police Department, and the Georgia State Patrol massed at the McDonough Square and huddled together to finalize their plans to clear all sidewalks before the removal of the Monument began. They then crossed the streets that were shut down around the Square and ordered citizens off the sidewalks across the street from the Square in front of the shops which were all still open for business. When asked by multiple citizens under what authority they were forcing people off the sidewalks, the officers replied that there was a construction permit for the removal of the Monument and that the construction permit gave them the authority to close the entire Square, even on the City sidewalks across the street from the Square. Multiple citizens at that time, including Minutemen founder Ray McBerry, stated to the officers that there could not be such a construction permit because such permits are required to be publicly posted on construction sites; and there were no permits posted anywhere in the vicinity of the Square. The attending officers then replied, “that’s not our job” and refused to verify that what the citizens had stated was accurate.
After numerous citizens refused to leave the sidewalks without proof that a construction permit existed, officers began threatening to arrest anyone who did not leave the “construction zone” which they argued included the City of McDonough’s sidewalks across the street from the Square. Most of the people who were present to watch the removal of the statue eventually acquiesced rather than face arrest. Mr. McBerry did not. While remaining polite and respectful to the officers, McBerry stated that he would not leave the sidewalk. When officers instructed him that the crane, which had recently arrived on the scene, could not begin to remove the Monument until he left the sidewalk, he still refused to vacate the sidewalk. Two Henry County Police officers, reportedly officers Loignan and Fields, then handcuffed Mr. McBerry and led him around the Square and behind the courthouse where he remained in cuffs for approximately a half hour while the officers waited for the arrival of the McDonough City officer who had been previously designated to write up any arrest citations since the arrests would take place on “City” property instead of county property. After radioing for the City officer to come write up the arrest several times with no success, the officers then consulted one of their County Police superiors as to the “problem.” Their superior notified them that the City would not be participating in writing any arrests; so another County Police officer arrived and wrote the arrest citation for a “local ordinance” violation of “obstruction” and McBerry was released.
The Confederate soldier was eventually removed from atop the Monument at approximately midnight, with the pedestal underneath removed afterward. The bottom portion of the Monument would not be removed for another two days, ostensibly because the crane company “ran out of time” and had not planned properly for a one-time removal event.
But the story doesn’t end there. According to responses of Open Records Requests submitted by the Georgia Minutemen, both Henry County and the City of McDonough have admitted that no construction permit of any kind existed in the vicinity of the McDonough Square for the entire date of July 28. According to one County employee who wished to remain anonymous, “someone screwed up big time.” With no construction permit, the County had no authority to remove the Monument. The crane company had no authority to remove the Monument. The County had no authority to force citizens to stay off the Square. And the County had no authority to force citizens to vacate the sidewalks in the vicinity of the Square, especially the sidewalks which belong to the City of McDonough. Any shutting down of City sidewalks requires a prior permit and authorization from the City since such actions negatively impact not only citizens in general but also the downtown businesses whose revenues were negatively impacted in a tangible way. Not only did the County have no construction permit, but they also did not have a permit from the City to close City sidewalks. In short, there was no lawful authority for the Monument to be removed on July 28 and no lawful authority for the officers to force citizens to vacate the City’s sidewalks. This is, undoubtedly, one of the factors in the McDonough Police Department wisely declining to participate in any arrests since they were aware that the construction permit that the County claimed was their reason for clearing the sidewalks did not, in fact, exist.
The Henry County Solicitor’s office was notified by Ray McBerry that both the county and city have admitted that the construction permit did not exist so that the solicitor’s office could have the opportunity to dismiss the charge. Instead, the solicitor’s office has so far stated that they do not intend to dismiss the charge even though the permit did not exist; and, instead, have elevated the charge against Mr. McBerry from a “local ordinance” violation to a “state” violation because the county has no authority to even prosecute if it is a local violation… since the City of McDonough declined to participate in the arrest.
When McBerry was offered the plea deal of a simple $100 fine and to have the charge reduced back to the original “local violation,” he had this to say to a group of local citizens, “It would be tempting to accept the plea deal of the $100 fine and just be done with all of it; but I would have to violate sacred conscience to do so. The County was wrong, both in removing our Monument and in removing citizens from the sidewalk that day. There were white citizens and black citizens forced off the sidewalk that day, liberals and conservatives, those in favour of the Monument’s removal and those opposed to it. I did what was right that day, and I must do what is right again by pleading ‘not guilty.’ I am doing this for our ancestors and for all Georgians today. Someone must stand up for the rights of the majority of law-abiding citizens. No one else is doing it. I trust that a jury of my peers will do the same and acquit me when we go to court.”
The Henry County solicitor’s office still has the option of dismissing the charge prior to the upcoming arraignment. Citizens are encouraged to voice their desire to have the charge against Mr. McBerry dismissed by the Henry County Solicitor’s office in person at the Judicial Building or by phone at 770-288-7178.
Additionally, any Henry County employee or City of McDonough employee who may have information that would prove valuable in Mr. McBerry’s upcoming trial is encouraged to contact the Georgia Minutemen through the contact page on our website. The information can even be provided anonymously.
For more information, please contact the Georgia Minutemen through our website at www.GeorgiaMinutemen.com