Before Monday night, a bronze figure of a Confederate soldier stood for 93 years on a pedestal in front of the old county courthouse in downtown Durham.
But now the statue is mangled and bent, after a group of protesters brought it down with a rope during a protest in solidarity with the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
It’s not clear if and how that figure, which is now being stored in the county’s warehouse, will be returned to its pedestal at 200 E. Main St.
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County Manager Wendell Davis, who said he hasn’t seen the statue since it fell, doesn’t know how extensive the repairs it will need will be.
What complicates the process in Durham is a 2015 law from the N.C. General Assembly that prevents removing, relocating, or altering monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission.
“The truth of the matter is that this is unprecedented, and it’s unclear what our responsibilities are,” Davis said, noting that he isn’t aware of a monument being torn down or defaced anywhere else in the state since the General Assembly passed its law.
Davis said the county’s lawyers will begin to reach out to the historical commission about its requirements going forward. The lawyers would then present what it finds to the county commissioners.
“Then the public body will have to discuss how we proceed forward,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, however, several of the commissioners were not ready to speak about the statue’s future
Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs said she hadn’t yet spoken to the county manager.
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow was still focused on the protest.
“We are not talking about the future of the statue; we are talking about the destruction that occurred,” Reckhow said. “The focus right now is to determine who the perpetrators were and prosecute them appropriately because lawlessness in this community cannot be condoned.”
In the meantime, an empty pedestal will stand in front of the old courthouse.
“There is a whole of of ambiguity and uncertainty right now that has to be worked through,” Davis said.
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