In North Carolina, local officials can't remove Confederate memorials

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Confederate monuments in North Carolina face an uncertain fate.

A deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has fueled another re-evaluation of Confederate statues in cities across the nation, with many calling for their removal.

In Durham Monday, protesters took matters into their own hands - pulling down a statue dedicated to "the boys who wore the gray," that had stood next to the old courthouse since 1924. The Durham County sheriff says he plans to seek charges against the demonstrators responsible.

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In Gainesville, Florida, Monday, workers hired by the Daughters of the Confederacy chipped away at a Confederate soldier's statue, loaded it quietly on a truck and drove away with little fanfare.

In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh said she's ready to tear down all of her city's Confederate statues, and the city council voted to have them destroyed. San Antonio lawmakers are looking ahead to removing a statue that many people wrongly assumed represented a famed Texas leader who died at the Alamo.

A statue atop this monument in Durham was pulled down by demonstrators.



But in North Carolina, local officials don't have the power to make decisions about Confederate monuments. A 2015 law passed by the General Assembly and signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory makes it illegal to remove "an event, person or military service that is part of North Carolina's history" without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission.

The law passed over the objections of Democrats wanted local officials and the North Carolina Historical Commission to have authority over such monuments. Republican supporters said they wanted to protect history.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last year counted more than 1,500 things around the country named after Confederate figures or dedicated to the Confederacy, including holidays, statues, flags and the names of cities, counties, schools and parks. Nearly half are monuments, which are in 24 states. Most of the dedications are in the South, but 24 are in the North and 21 in states that did not exist at the time of the Civil War.

CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA

In Jacksonville, Florida, City Council President Anna Brosche has ordered an immediate inventory of all of the Confederate statues in her city in preparation for their removal.

"These monuments, memorials and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many," she said Monday.

Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Jim Gray moved up his announcement by a day in reaction to the weekend bloodshed. Memorials to John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan are perched outside a former courthouse that was the site of slave auctions before the Civil War.

San Antonio Councilman Robert Travino is promoting a measure that would remove the Confederate statue at the center of Travis Park, where for years people have mistakenly identified the figure as being that of Col. William Travis, a Texas hero who died at the Alamo.

"This is not an important art piece, but a monument to power. It was put in to remind people of that power. It is an unfortunate message of hate, and we think it's important to relocate it." Travino said Monday. "We do think that history is important so we're looking for an appropriate location for it."

St. Louis dismantled its Confederate Monument in Forest Park in June, giving it to the Missouri Civil War Museum after years of debate.

In Baltimore, Pugh announced Monday that she would move forward with the removal of Baltimore's statues of Roger B. Taney, a Marylander who wrote the 1856 Dred Scott supreme court ruling that denied citizenship to African-Americans, and a statue of two Virginians, Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

Pugh said she was making plans to send the statues to cemeteries with Confederate dead outside the city. But hours later, the city council voted unanimously to have the statues destroyed instead of moved. It was unclear whether anything would happen to the statues immediately.

Back in May, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu moved his city's four main Confederate statues, including a statue of Lee, at night after threats of violence from Confederate sympathizers and white supremacists. Pugh said she is consulting with Landrieu, now head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, about the removal of Baltimore's statues and the cost.

The violence in Charlottesville will probably speed up efforts to do away with the monuments, experts said.

The convergence of white nationalists and neo-Nazis with Confederate imagery in Charlottesville will make it difficult for government agencies to defend having Confederate statues on their property, Boston University history professor Heather Cox Richardson said.

"The idea that this somehow is about Southern heritage, I think that ship sailed," said Richardson, who teaches and writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction and Southern politics.

Violence and death changes things, agreed University of Georgia political science professor M.V. "Trey" Hood III.

Photos of gunman Dylan Roof, who fatally shot nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, showed him with a Confederate flag and triggered a swift "sea change" in perception of the banner, Hood said.

Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley successfully led calls to bring down a Confederate flag that had flown on Statehouse grounds for 54 years. Other cities and organizations began accelerating their removal of Confederate imagery following Roof's arrest.

Now local officials will find it harder to ignore or shelve questions about Confederate statues, Richardson said.

"It was always possible for people to look the other way," she said. "After Charlottesville, I do not see how Americans can look the other way. You have to make a choice at this moment."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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