Rumors that another Confederate statue might be coming down sparked a call to action here Thursday.
Several Chatham County residents were spotted during rush-hour traffic sitting at the base of the Confederate monument in front of the Historic Chatham County Courthouse. The Chatham County News reported via Twitter that Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson and Pittsboro Police Chief Percy Crutchfield also were there.
The response followed a vigil Sunday that brought about 30 people to the monument in a show of solidarity with victims of the deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. Former Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller also appealed Monday to the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners for a conversation about the monument’s future.
News coverage of his comments appeared to have fed rumors that someone was planning to take the statue down, Voller said. Someone asked earlier this week if he was organizing a protest, he said, and then he learned from his wife that rumors were spreading on social media.
“What spurred it on is probably WNCA radio station in Siler City picked that up from Monday night, and then people just amplified it into there is some movement to tear it down,” he said.
The monument’s future was not the only reason he spoke to the board, Voller said, but he told them the toppling of the monument in Durham and the debate over others around the country make it the right time for the town to look at an issue that’s been around for years.
It’s not the first time people have brought up moving the statue, he said.
“When the courthouse burned down (in 2010), for instance, I had plenty of people privately say, ‘I wish the statue had fallen down, too’,” Voller said. “When I was canvassing the town and the community, I would have members of the community and specifically the African-American community ask about the removal or moving the statue to another location.”
He suggested the board send a resolution to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners requesting a community process to move the monument to a more suitable location. The governments could replace it with something “more unifying, positive and affirming of the Pittsboro and Chatham County in 2017,” he said.
Voller also made it clear in his remarks that he was not advocating for erasing history.
“I will defend all citizens’ rights to free expression, thought and access to free assembly,” Voller told the board. “However, when we are considering the iconography and monumentation that appear prominently in our public square representing in some way, shape or form the dreams and aspirations of the community we can and should take the time to reflect whether such monuments represent the community at-large and whether it is time to consider a change.”