As opposing sides to the Confederate statue debate stood across the street from each other hurling insults on Saturday, the Rev. Samuel Lassiter visited each group to make an appeal for a conversation.
There is so much more people can be fighting for than against, he told the groups. The statue in front of the Chatham County Historic Courthouse in downtown Pittsboro is less offensive to him than a Confederate flag erected recently across from Horton Middle School in Pittsboro. The formerly all-black school is named for Chatham’s native slave poet George Moses Horton.
“As me being a black person, that was a slap in my face. That’s where I went to school, that’s where my momma went to school, that’s where my sister went to school,” he said.
Lassiter’s offer to hold a community conversation led by local ministers was met with skepticism and willingness from both sides, each of which was represented by fewer than two dozen people, many hailing from out of the county and out of state.
“If we can take our Saturdays, every Saturday, and come up here and demonstrate, we ought to be able — whether the deadline has passed, whether people are disliking each other — we need to come together and sit around the round table,” he said.
He prayed with each group, shaking hands on the promise of a real conversation. Time for that conversation is running short.
Moving the Confederate statue
The Chatham County commissioners gave the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy until Oct. 1 to bring a plan for the statue’s removal to the county. The UDC contends the statue was a gift to the county, making it subject to a 2015 state law protecting monuments on public property.
UDC President Barbara Pugh, instead of offering a plan for the statue, asked the county in a letter for more time; she was rejected. The county plans to declare the statue public trespass by Nov. 1, making it eligible for removal.
Saturday’s seven-hour protest was more peaceful than one on Sept. 28 when protesters screamed at each other standing toe to toe and three people were arrested. Chatham County Sheriff’s Office deputies quickly sent anti-racist protesters back to their side of the street when they attempted to confront statue supporters Saturday.
Two peopl refused. They and another woman were arrested:
▪ Jessica Lynne Reavis, 40, of Danville, Virginia, was charged with carrying a concealed gun and carrying a concealed weapon. She was released on a written promise to appear and is scheduled to appear in District Court in Pittsboro on Nov. 6.
▪ Richard Dundas Allen, 43, of Pittsboro, was charged with disorderly conduct. He was released on a written promise to appear in District Court on Nov. 6.
▪ Thalia Katheria Considnie, 30, of Durham, was charged with disorderly conduct, carrying a concealed weapon and having a weapon at a parade, rally or demonstration. She was released on a written promise to appear in District Court in Pittsboro on Nov. 6.
Heritage or hate?
Moncure resident Jerry Lindsey came out to show support for the statue. It doesn’t need to be moved because it already sits in front of a museum at the courthouse, he said.
“The only place you hear the racism is from the other side. All we want is for the Confederate monument to be left alone,” Lindsey said. “The Civil War was a bad time. There was things that nobody’s proud of, but still they were our parents and grandparents. It honors our ancestors.”
Above the Confederate battle flags flew the flag of the League of the South and the Quantrill flag, named for William Quantrill, a rebel guerrilla leader during the Civil War.
Other anti-racist protesters pointed to those flags as proof the people supporting the statue also support racism and hate. It’s important to come out and push back against that kind of thinking, Hillsborough resident Matthew Carter said.
“We just came out to represent actual inclusive values,” Carter said. “Since (the Hillsborough protests) happened, it’s been more on our radar.”
Ann Silverman, a Chatham County resident, sat in protest nearby holding a folded American flag given to her in honor of her father’s military service. She grew up in the South and thinks it’s sad to see people fighting over Civil War flags and statues, she said.
“It would be nice to see this go,” Silverman said. “There could be a historical place (for the statue). I’m not objecting to preserving history, but it’s the context.”