The mayor of Raleigh and a candidate who is challenging her in the upcoming election both spoke out this week against the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said in a statement that last weekend’s deadly clash “serves as a stark reminder that there is still much work to be done” to combat racism and bigotry.
Charles Francis, an African-American attorney who is running for the mayor’s seat, urged everyone to speak out and take action by donating to the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights or the Anti-Defamation League, organizing, mentoring children and voting.
Over the weekend, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville to protest the potential removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park. Members of the “alt-right” clashed with protesters, and one person died and 19 were injured Saturday when a man drove a car into the crowd.
“(L)et this tragedy be a defining moment in this tumultuous time in our history,” McFarlane said in a statement Monday. “Let this be the moment we collectively say enough is enough.”
McFarlane urged everyone to attend a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. The event is co-sponsored by the church, Temple Beth Or Social Action Committee, the Triangle MLK Committee and the Triangle Interfaith Alliance.
“Let’s stand together as Raleigh – a community that strives to be understanding and turns its back on extremist groups and beliefs that do not reflect our values as a community, city or country,” McFarlane said.
Francis pointed to his own family history in North Carolina, which he said goes back 200 years. He said his great-grandfather was enslaved, and his grandfather was a World War I veteran and community leader who worked as a mail carrier in Raleigh, a businessman and a real estate investor. His mother was a college administrator who earned a degree from the University of Chicago in 1948.
“This is the progress of American history that (white nationalists) David Duke and Richard Spencer seek to reverse,” Francis said. “At its root, this struggle is not about the past; it’s about the future we build together. As a southerner, I know from experience that the vast majority of southerners – of all races – believe in progress and unity and condemn David Duke and hate.”
Francis said many Confederate monuments were not built at the end of the Civil War but decades later.
There are six Confederate monuments in Raleigh: three on the State Capitol grounds and three at Oakwood Cemetery. Half were put up between 1910 and 1914, according to the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
Francis said the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville was put up in 1924.
“Like many Confederate monuments, it represented an aggressive assertion of white supremacy and Jim Crow around the south,” Francis said. “Decades later, Jim Crow was dismantled. But 50 years later, in many places, including Raleigh, idols of Jim Crow remain.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon