- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - A proposal to erect a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain is getting a chilly reception from some of the civil rights groups that King worked with.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King co-founded, and the Atlanta and DeKalb branches of the NAACP said Tuesday that they oppose placing a tribute to King near the figures of three Confederate leaders engraved on the mountain outside Atlanta. Leaders of the organizations said they will meet Wednesday with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss the issue.

The state authority that oversees the mountain and surrounding park said this week that a Liberty Bell replica atop the mountain would recall a famous line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

SCLC President Charles Steele questioned why the state would place a reference to King, “one of Georgia’s most favorite sons, anywhere near these three traitors?”

The carving is the largest relief sculpture in the world, beating out Mount Rushmore. Critics repeatedly have called for removing the images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback, and renewed those efforts following June’s mass shooting that killed nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Supporters of the Confederate battle flag rallied this summer at the giant stone landmark, which for years was the site of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings.

The SCLC and NAACP leaders said the meeting with Deal will focus on removing Confederate symbols from Stone Mountain, but they also hammered the King proposal.

“The proposal to include Dr. King is simply to confuse Black folk about the issues,” said John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP branch, in a written statement. “It’s an attempt to gain support from Blacks to keep these racist and demeaning symbols.”

A Southern heritage group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, panned the King proposal this week, calling it “wholly inappropriate” to place a monument atop the mountain because of the site’s designation in 1958 as a Confederate memorial.

Deal’s spokeswoman Jen Talaber declined to comment Tuesday on the announced meeting. Stone Mountain Memorial Association Chief Executive Bill Stephens referred a reporter back to his earlier statement on the proposal. On Monday, he said the monument would broaden the story told by the state park.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the proposal for a King monument on Sunday.

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