N.C. Historical Commission Votes to Punt on Removing Confederate Monuments from Capitol | News
News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Friday, September 22, 2017

N.C. Historical Commission Votes to Punt on Removing Confederate Monuments from Capitol

Posted by on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge ERICA HELLERSTEIN
  • Erica Hellerstein
In a move that was disappointing but not particularly shocking to activists, the N.C. Historical Commission voted nearly unanimously this morning to postpone a decision on removing Confederate monuments from the state capitol in downtown Raleigh.

The decision came in response to a petition sent by Governor Cooper's administration earlier this month to remove three Confederate monuments from the Capitol in Raleigh to the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site in Johnston County. Cooper proposed moving the monuments in the wake of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the subsequent toppling of a Confederate monument in Durham last month. Both those incidents—in addition to the 2015 massacre of black worshippers at a South Carolina church by a white supremacist who posed in photos with the Confederate flag—have reignited calls for the monuments to come down.

That such a politically consequential decision comes down to an arbitrary eleven-member commission is not by accident. It's by design; specifically, a 2015 law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that prevents the state from removing "objects of remembrance," including Confederate monuments, from public property without the approval of the Historical Commission. The law also requires all monuments to be relocated to sites of "similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access."

In petitioning for the monuments' relocation, the Cooper administration is arguing that moving them to Bentonville would comply with the law as it is written, but opponents, including Republican lawmakers, contend (unsurprisingly) that it would not. That perspective was on full display in a memo recently signed by two dozen House Republicans, including Speaker Tim Moore, which reads that "the spirit and the letter of the law do not allow for the granting of the governor's request."

Ultimately, the commission punted, voting 9–1 to postpone the decision until April to seek legal guidance and form a committee to study the issue. Board member David Dennard (one of two black members of the commission) was the sole dissenter; when he cast his no vote, observers seated in the meeting snapped in approval. Like many other things in the state, this body is not entirely apolitical. All commission members are appointed by the governor, and Cooper has appointed three at-large members so far, according to his website.

Members said they didn’t want to put off the decision indefinitely but instead said the commission was exercising "its ability to weigh in on matters of extreme importance in this state, and that we're doing so in a thoughtful and reflective manner."

"We respect history, but it's not static, and we need to recognize that it's not static," added Valerie Johnson, a member of the commission and the chairwoman of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. The Historical Commission also voted to add Johnson to the committee that will study the relocation before making a decision in April.

A group of about two dozen protesters gathered outside the building before and after the meeting. Few were pleased by the commission's decision.

"I would have liked to see the commission make a decision," said Heather Redding, carrying a "Confederate Monuments Need to Go" sign. "I don't think they need to form a committee to study this issue. I think there are plenty of experts who have weighed in already. I would have liked to see them support relocating these monuments to the site that has been proposed by the governor."

"We just saw them tighten their grip around the neck of justice," added Jose Romero. "They're trying to keep choking us, but we're going to keep organizing and this was just the tip of the iceberg. We keep giving them opportunities to speak truth to power, as they say, and that's not happening."

Romero said he'd like to see the commission, at the very least, release a statement indicating that they believe that the statutes should be taken down. "And actually putting in the work to celebrate the folks in North Carolina that should be celebrated rather than misremembering history."

Heather Swirehart said the commission's cautious decision seemed out of touch with the political moment. "With everything that's happening right now, their argument was that they need to be careful because of the climate that we're in. It feels like because of the political climate that we're in, that's exactly why we should be pressing it, making it happen faster, because clearly racism and how it affects people is an issue. My partner often talks about PTSD growing up as an African-American woman and it is a trigger every time she sees [these monuments]."

Swirehart said she'd be happy to see the monument placed in a museum. "It is part of a story and it can be part of a museum where people can go to see it if they want to and figure out how it came about."

As the protesters were chanting outside the building, an elderly white man turned around on the steps above them, lifted his shirt, and shook his butt at them. Which is basically North Carolina politics in a nutshell.

Tags: , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News



Twitter Activity

Comments

I was diagnosed of hepatitis B in 2012,I have tried all possible means to get cure but all my effort …

by Austin calnor on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

"Since late November, Henderson County in Western North Carolina has seen 20 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, and has …

by Liza Coutu on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

I was diagnosed of hepatitis B in 2012,I have tried all possible means to get cure but all my effort …

by Austin calnor on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

"Since late November, Henderson County in Western North Carolina has seen 20 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, and has …

by Liza Coutu on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

What part of illegal don't they understand. Congress is considering the DACAs plus all other illegal aliens in a bill …

by john1050 on Durham Church Offers Immigrant Sanctuary from Deportation (News)

From the WRAL story:
http://www.wral.com/former-wake-register-o…
"John Stephenson, the county's internal auditor, said an average of $1,100 to …

by Mojo on Indictments in Wake Register of Deeds Scandal Charge Laura Riddick with Embezzling $926,615 (News)

Hopefully Indyweek will remember all this the next time they endorse a Republican (over and over again).

by Robert Larson on Indictments in Wake Register of Deeds Scandal Charge Laura Riddick with Embezzling $926,615 (News)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation