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Confederate monument ordered to be removed out of concern for public safety, mayor says

LEFT: Pockmarks pepper the face of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee, who stands among other historical figures in the portal to Duke Chapel on the Duke University campus in Durham, N.C., on March 21, 2017. (Bernard Thomas/The Herald-Sun). RIGHT: Demonstrators and spectators gather around a toppled Confederate statue known as Silent Sam Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. (Julia Wall/Raleigh News & Observer)
LEFT: Pockmarks pepper the face of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee, who stands among other historical figures in the portal to Duke Chapel on the Duke University campus in Durham, N.C., on March 21, 2017. (Bernard Thomas/The Herald-Sun). RIGHT: Demonstrators and spectators gather around a toppled Confederate statue known as Silent Sam Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. (Julia Wall/Raleigh News & Observer) The Herald-Sun (left); The News & Observer (right)

Another Confederate monument is on the verge of being taken down.

A North Carolina city has written the owners of a statue of a Confederate soldier, saying it wants the monument removed, and it wants it gone by the end of the month.

According to the letter written by City Attorney Angela Carmon, Winston-Salem wants the Confederate monument removed, in part, because of the outrage surrounding similar statues in N.C. and across the nation, and the danger that can follow.

“Confederate statues ... have been at the center of confrontation and violence for the past 16 months,” Carmon wrote in her letter to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group the city attorney said claims to own the statue.

In the letter, Carmon referenced the deadly protests that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, and incidents that occurred on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where the Silent Sam statue was toppled. The city attorney also pointed out that the Confederate monument “in the heart of downtown” has been vandalized twice.

Someone defaced the statue on Christmas by using black marker to write “Cowards & Traitors,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

That vandalism raised “significant concern about the safety of the statue and the potential for confrontation ... similar to that endured by other cities,” Carmon wrote in the letter. “... Due to concerns for overall public safety and protection of the statue, I hereby direct you to remove and relocate by January 31st the subject Confederate Statue from its present location to a more secure location where the same can be protected from vandals and others looking to create a Charlottesville type incident in Winston-Salem.”

If the organization does not comply, the city may seek a “court order for the removal and relocation of the subject statue,” according to the letter.

The order to move the statue has the support of the mayor.

“We’ve seen many acts of violence around the country in terms of Charlottesville, Chapel Hill, Durham and other places so we are trying to be proactive and to prevent violence in our city,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said, WFMY reported.

Joines added another reason to remove the statue.

“It is a symbol of oppression and the subjugation of the African-American people and so it’s hurtful to many in our community,” Joines said, according to WGHP.

Although the United Daughters of the Confederacy declined to comment on the statue in Winston-Salem, it has made previous public statements in defense of the monuments.

“These memorial statues and markers have been a part of the Southern landscape for decades,” the group’s president general wrote in 2017 in a message on its website where it denounced Confederate symbolism being used for racial divisiveness and white supremacy. “We are grieved that certain hate groups have taken the Confederate flag and other symbols as their own.

“We are the descendants of Confederate soldiers, sailors, and patriots. Our members are the ones who have spent 123 years honoring their memory by various activities in the fields of education, history and charity, promoting patriotism and good citizenship. Our members are the ones who, like our statues, have stayed quietly in the background, never engaging in public controversy.”

Joines said there has been previous communication with the United Daughters of the Confederacy about moving the statue erected in 1905, but the group did not want it placed in an area cemetery where the mayor says there are 36 Confederate graves, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Now it might have no choice.

The monument is privately owned and located on private property, according to Carmon’s letter. Because of that, Joines said it can be moved without violating a 2015 N.C. law “which protects monuments on public grounds” from being moved without the approval of the General Assembly, according to WGHP.

“We’re trying to be nice, but in the heat of the night, people may come through like ninja warriors and take that statue down,” city council member D.D. Adams said, per the Winston-Salem Journal.

An Heirs to the Confederacy Monument Support Rally is planned for Jan. 13, according to a Facebook event page. The rally will begin at 9 a.m. at the Silent Sam monument before moving to Winston-Salem, where participants “will stand at the (monument)“ from 2-5 p.m.

Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.


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