“Communist agitators” and “anarchists” shouldn’t dictate what North Carolina does with its Confederate statues, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says.
Forest, a socially conservative Republican who plans to run for governor in 2020, told The Daily Advance in Elizabeth City that Gov. Roy Cooper was responding to the crowd in Durham that toppled a monument in front of the old Durham County courthouse when Cooper called for removal of Confederate monuments from state property.
“The lieutenant governor said the destruction of the Confederate monument in Durham was an act of violence by two communist groups, and people need to remember that communists killed 100 million people,” The Daily Advance reported.
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Forest’s spokesman, Jamey Falkenbury, elaborated on the statement Thursday.
“As has been reported by numerous news outlets, the main organizers of the Durham protest are active members of the World Workers Party Durham Branch, a Socialist leaning platform that has Communist ideals,” Falkenbury said. “The Governor, nor any American for that matter, should not bow down to the demands of an organization that aligns themselves with tactics of violence. We are a state based on laws and procedures, and to allow anarchists the ability to dictate how we govern ourselves is not good public policy.”
Forest is the latest politician responding to the idea of removing Confederate monuments in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Va., the destruction of the Confederate soldier’s statue in Durham, and rallies demanding the removal of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Silent Sam statue.
State Rep. John Blust, a Republican from Guilford County, joked on Wednesday that he was personally protecting Silent Sam, a statue erected to honor UNC alumni who served in the Confederate army during the Civil War.
“Standing guard at the Silent Sam statue in Chapel Hill,” Blust posted on Facebook. “The assembled mob ran and hid once I got here.”
Here are some North Carolina elected leaders’ recent thoughts on monuments.
Gov. Roy Cooper
Cooper, a first-term Democrat, discouraged crowds from illegally toppling monuments and asked his administration to determine how much it would cost to remove Confederate monuments from state property.
He recently suggested UNC has the authority to remove Silent Sam from its campus, a claim the university disputes.
“Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. But history is not on their side,” Cooper wrote last week. “We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.”
Phil Berger, NC Senate leader
Berger, a Republican from Eden, criticized Cooper’s plan as “reactionary.”
“I believe many current members of the Senate would be hesitant to begin erasing our state and country’s history by replacing that process with a unilateral removal of all monuments with no public discourse,” Berger said.
Tim Moore, NC House speaker
Moore, a Republican from Kings Mountain, released a statement on Wednesday praising UNC for protecting Silent Sam.
“Acquiescing to threats of criminal vandalism and confrontation sets a dangerous precedent that state law can be circumvented in the presence of potentially violent intimidation,” Moore said.
N.C. Rep. Mike Clampitt
Clampitt, a Republican from Bryson City, posted on Facebook that Confederate monuments should not be removed or relocated.
“May we respect and honor the Confederate soldiers, their courage, their sacrifices, and that they too, were Americans,” Clampitt said.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield
Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, said in a statement that he doesn’t support the destruction of government property but said the destruction of the Durham statue was an expression of “outrage” about the attacks in Charlottesville and “the continued racial disparities in our communities.”
“The events in Durham are an example of the pain that people of good will are experiencing when terror is heaped upon them or their fellow citizens,” he said.
U.S. Rep. George Holding
Holding, a Raleigh Republican, condemned slavery but defended keeping Confederate monuments in place, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
“There are moments in American history we can point to with pride, and there are other moments when men made mistakes and when what they did was wrong,” Holding told the Winston-Salem Journal. “And, often, the same men who did good also made mistakes.
“Slavery was one of our terrible mistakes,” Holding said. “It was wrong. But we also can be proud of how, at Appomattox, Lincoln and Grant and Lee put our country on the road to healing and unity.
“That is why I do not believe we should take down memorials to the soldiers who fought in the Civil War,” Holding said. “Instead, we should learn from history, as Lincoln said in 1865 a month before Appomattox, ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all.’”
U.S. Rep. David Price
Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, told the Winston-Salem Journal that municipalities should be able to remove Confederate monuments without the legislature’s interference. Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law in 2015 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.
“We don’t get to choose our history, but we do get to choose the history we celebrate,” Price told the Journal.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger
Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican, on Aug. 15 condemned the crowd that torn down the Confederate monument in Durham.
“The anarchy displayed in Durham should be condemned by all who cherish the rule of law and the spirit of Martin Luther King. ... The despicable, reprehensible hatred displayed by white supremacists in Charlottesville has no place in America, but we cannot drive out that hate with more violence,” Pittenger wrote.