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Gov. Roy Cooper urges repeal of Confederate memorial law
2015 legislation blocks removal of markers
Published Thursday, August 17, 2017 10:32 am
by Herbert L. White

A Confederate marker erected between Memorial Stadium and Grady Cole Center in Charlotte's Elizabeth neighborhood.

Gov. Roy Cooper is calling on state lawmakers to repeal a 2015 law that prevents the removal or relocation of Confederate monuments.

Cooper said repealing the law, passed by the Republican-majority General Assembly and signed by Republican former governor Pat McCrory would give municipalities and the state authority to move markers to museums, cemeteries, and historical sites if they choose.

Cooper’s lobby effort comes amid a growing national debate over Civil War memorials after last week’s deadly clashes between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia left three people dead. The white supremacists were protesting the planned removal of a statue depicting Confederate general Robert E. Lee. 

“Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights,” Cooper wrote in a post to Medium. “But history is not on their side. We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.”

Cooper also urged the Senate to defeat a bill passed earlier this year by the House that gives immunity to motorists who hit protestors. One woman was killed and 19 protesters were injured when a white nationalist drove his car into them in Charlottesville. Two Virginia State Troopers were killed when their helicopter crashed while they monitored the protests.

The General Assembly convenes next week at the state capitol in Raleigh.

“Our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums – not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds,” Cooper said. “And our history must tell the full story, including the subjugation of humans created in God’s image to provide the back-breaking labor that drove the South’s agrarian economy.”

The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, a conference of 37 African American and indigenous American lawmakers, backs Cooper’s initiative.

“Although monuments are stone and metal, when the symbolism glorifies government actions that have oppressed and enslaved African Americans for generations, it perpetuates the racial hatred, violence, and animosity that we saw in Charlottesville,” the group said in a statement.  

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger contends removing statues without public input won’t solve anything.
“Personally, I do not think an impulsive decision to pull down every Confederate monument in North Carolina is wise,” he said in a statement. “In my opinion, rewriting history is a fool’s errand, and those trying to rewrite history unfortunately are likely taking a first step toward repeating it. Two years ago, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that tried to reduce the politics in making these decisions. I believe many current members of the Senate would be hesitant to begin erasing our state and country’s history by replacing that process with a unilateral removal of all monuments with no public discourse.”

Charlotte has a pair of Confederate memorials: A stone tablet between Memorial Stadium and Grady Cole Center in the Elizabeth neighborhood and an obelisk erected in 1867 to commemorate Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War at city-owned Elmwood Cemetery at 5th and Cedar streets. Confederate veterans are buried at the cemetery, many with a version of the rebel battle flag on their gravesite.

Rick Glazier, executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center, says repealing the 2015 law is the right call.

“These actions should be bipartisan,” he said. “They are needed to increase vital public confidence in the safety of all residents of North Carolina; to counter the nationwide fear that has resulted from the evil on display by Neo-Nazi and white supremacist terrorist groups filled with hate, shouting slogans of hate, and carrying torched symbols of hate in Charlottesville; and challenge the stunning lack of presidential understanding in response to those words and acts of violence.”


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