Enfield mayor requests state of emergency citing threats over Confederate monument

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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The Mayor of Enfield spoke on why he wants Gov. Roy Cooper to declare a state of emergency in his town.

ENFIELD, N.C. (WTVD) -- The removal of a Confederate monument has brought many Enfield residents together but the town remains on edge.

Since the removal of the monument, the mayor and town residents have been receiving death threats and racial slurs. And at the request of the police chief and district attorney, the State Bureau of Investigation has begun investigating Mayor Mondale Robinson and the removal of the monument.

Police Chief James Ayers has since resigned, ABC11 learned Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, the mayor held a news conference asking that Gov. Roy Cooper declare a state of emergency and send additional law enforcement to the town and also demanded that Attorney General Josh Stein investigate the racially tinged messages he's been receiving. Robinson also called for the governor to visit Enfield.

In calling on Cooper to help his Halifax County town, Enfield, Robinson and others said the governor's lack of response to the town's request--which they believe is a response itself-- speaks volumes.

"So Governor Cooper is required to respond in this space to let folks know that in North Carolina racism, White terrorism is not welcome," Robinson said. "You can't do that by sitting in silence for playing respectability, politics, respectability politics. Have Black people in this space where we are not seen as whole. And we know that the responses from the tearing down of this monument had nothing to do with the history of the Confederacy. It had everything to do with White supremacy and to maintain. So I think we require that the governor act on these three requests that we put in our letter."

Robinson and others in the community said the statue was demolished because there was no room for hate. They added that the Confederate monument, which stood within yards of a playground, reminded people, especially young Black children of "their place."

"What has happened since then (removal of the monument), has been nothing but unlawful, hateful, violent criminal acts of response to a lawful act by the town of Enfield and the mayor," said Jeremy Collins, CEO of Black Acre Equity. "This is a sincere call. And the actions taken by the town again were lawful and the response has been unlawful."

Robinson livestreamed the removal of the 1928 Confederate monument weeks ago.

"I tried to give them their mess back, but it was clear to me that, and actually they were not interested in it. It didn't belong in our park. It was a gift that was given to us; 100-year-old gift is raggedy, especially when it's filled with hate," Robinson said. "So we removed it from our park. We didn't want the gift anymore.

"It should be said that if one believed that Black lives truly matter, and said person has no opposition to our town, simple requests for freedom, peace and tranquility, (inaudible) a racialized terror. And with that, I invite Governor Cooper to come stand on the side of inferior residents and those of us who are fighting against racialized terror," Robinson added. "That type of history should not be honored in a park. I have, there are tons of people. My family has personal ties to that monument. Unfortunately, those personal ties that my family has means that we were slaved for the gain of White people. So how do I feel about it? I feel relieved that another Black child will never see that monument again in a park in Enfield, North Carolina."

One Enfield resident also expressed her frustration at the governor's non-response.

"I regret, I think, that I voted for Governor Cooper because that's not appropriate and that's not cute," said Karen Richardson. "So I'm one of the ones that voted for Governor Cooper and I always supported him. So I don't know, I feel like, I regret voting for him."

The board voted "somewhere in late 2019 or early 2020" to have the Confederate monument removed. Then-Mayor Wayne Anderson did not act on it and the board voted again in August to have it finally removed. Commissioner Bud Whitaker said "somehow the minutes went missing" from the previous vote, which is why they voted again (passing 4-1, Kent Holmes opposed).

Civil rights activists also are up in arms about what they see as a lack of action by the governor and attorney general and the SBI investigation of Robinson.

"Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein are actively enabling White domestic terrorism by turning a blind eye to the threats against the life of a Black elected official as a people instead of using the power of the state to root out White supremacy and protect the physical and mental health of the citizens of Enfield by responding with safety measures and practices," said Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate NC. "Our governor and AG instead have used the power of the state to investigate a Black elected official ...and the destruction of an effigy of racism and terror.

"This is an investigation to quell black liberation," Blagrove added. "This is an investigation to put Black folks back into their place and there is no other justification for this."

Robinson said Tuesday afternoon that he believes the police chief's resignation is tied to this incident.

"The resignation is vague, but does mention issues with administration," he said.

The mayor said the chief's resignation came after he called out the police chief on social media for contacting the SBI about the monument's removal.

In a statement released Wednesday, Stein's office said it condemned threats and violence but added that it did not have the authority to directly launch an investigation.

"Every North Carolinian deserves to live in a community free from violence and hate, and Attorney General Stein and the Department of Justice are committed to keeping the people of North Carolina safe, including from White supremacist threats of violence," the Attorney General's Office said. "Although we do not have the authority to investigate this matter directly, we encourage a full law enforcement investigation into all threats that undermine the security and wellness of Enfield's residents. We are continuing to monitor this issue and are committed to doing everything in our power so every person can feel safe in their own communities."