Recent events have highlighted the emotional and deeply dividing controversy over public and private memorials, markers, statues and monuments to Confederate soldiers. Charlottesville, Virginia suffered tragedy sparked by radical groups promoting white supremacy, anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate. In response, government officials, along with public opinion, have called for removal of these statues and monuments which are now lightning rods of controversy. What is the law in North Carolina regarding these statues and memorials? What can local governments do? What can private citizens do?
Timeline of Events Since Charlottesville
- Chaos and violence erupt in Charlottesville, Virginia resulting in three deaths and several injuries. This is all in response to white supremacists exercising their first amendment right to spread prejudice and hate.
- President Trump speaks against violence and hate but does not specifically denounce the hate groups. Our president clearly denounces violence and hate.
- President Trump speaks again and again but does not satisfy those who want him to clearly denounce the white supremacists.
- Governor Roy Cooper calls on our legislature to remove these Confederate statues and monuments from state property.
- Our Republican leaders clearly indicate that they will not support removal of these Confederate statues and monuments. They point out a law that protects these statues from arbitrary removal.
- Duke University removes the statue of General Robert E. Lee from campus.
- The Mayor of Chapel Hill calls for removal of “Silent Sam” (a statue of a confederate soldier) from the UNC campus.
- Facebook and social media flood all channels with strong opinions for removal and against removal of confederate monuments and memorials.
Before we rush to judgment against our publicly elected officials, let’s remember that they are faced with making tough decisions regarding an issue that deeply divides friends, families and neighbors. If you don’t like what your elected officials are doing, then you must vote them out of office. Don’t resort to violence.
Perspectives: There are Two Basic Perspectives on This Issue.
- Removal. Those in favor of removing these statues and memorials honoring confederate soldiers say they are symbols of racism and social hierarchy and should be therefore be removed.
- Leave them alone. Many feel that these statues and memorials represent history and pay tribute and honor to our southern heritage. They are not symbols of racism. They should remain in place.
What is the Law?
A law to prevent removal of any public statue was enacted by the NC legislature and signed by Governor McCrory in 2015. This law is found at NC general statute section 100-2.1. It specifically states, “A monument, memorial, or work of art owned by the state may not be removed, relocated, or altered in any way without the approval of the NC Historical Commission.” This law was passed a couple years ago when there was a movement to remove “Silent Sam” from the UNC campus. North Carolina may have over 200 confederate statues, monuments or markers that would be protected by this law. Based upon this law, cities and government officials, including the current governor, cannot remove statues or monuments unless approved by the Historical Commission. Therefore, “Silent Sam” and other confederate memorials that are on public property owned by the state cannot be removed at this time.
Why is Duke Allowed to Remove the Statue of General Lee?
Yes, Duke University removed a confederate statue but this monument was on private land. Duke is a private university as opposed to UNC which is public. Duke has every right to remove what is on its campus.
Can Private Citizens Do Anything to the Confederate Statues?
The answer is no, because there is a law that makes this a criminal offense in North Carolina. North Carolina general statute section 14-132 specifically states that it is misdemeanor if any person shall unlawfully write or scribble on, mark, deface, or injure the walls of any public building or facility, or any statue or monument situated in any public place.” This law also makes it illegal to make riotous noise, commit disorderly conduct or commit any nuisance in or near a public building or facility. Regardless of whether you support or oppose removal of confederate memorials, you are not permitted to damage them or attempt to remove them. Please allow our public officials and the election process to sort out the remedies. Trying to take matters into your own hands may lead to arrest and prosecution.
What is your opinion? Should the confederate statues and monuments be removed? What can you do as a private citizen to voice your opinion? Call or write your representative in Raleigh. Most importantly, you should vote.