Gov. Roy Cooper has sent a formal request to move three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds to a historic site in Johnston County.
Machelle Sanders, secretary of the Department of Administration and a Cooper appointee, sent the petition to the state Historical Commission. A 2015 state law that took power away from elected officials to decide on their own to move or remove monuments requires commission approval for changes. But the law appears to limit what the commission can do.
Cooper, a Democrat, wants the monuments moved to the Bentonville Battlefield, site of a Civil War battle.
“Relocating these monuments to a historic Civil War site will help us preserve them and provide context for their history,” Sanders said in a statement.
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The violent white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville accelerated removal of Confederate monuments in cities around the country.
A crowd in Durham toppled a Confederate statute that stood in front of the old Durham County courthouse.
Cooper called for repeal of the 2015 law – a move Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said he did not support.
“The governor’s decision to spend this evening working to remove decades-old monuments instead of remaining laser-focused on the major hurricane bearing down on the southeast shows he is continuing to concentrate on the wrong priorities,” Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for Berger, said in a statement Friday.
It’s unclear whether the commission has the authority to approve moving the monuments.
Earlier, Cooper said the commission’s powers were narrow, which is why he wanted the law repealed. The petition, however, says the commission can make the call on the Capitol monuments. The monuments need to be moved so they can be preserved, the petition says.
Under the law, monuments that are permanently relocated have to go to sites of similar “prominence, honor, visibility, (and) availability.” They can’t go to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum unless they originated from a similar place.
The three monuments the Cooper administration wants moved are the 1985 Confederate monument, the Henry Lawson Wyatt monument, which depicts the first Confederate soldier to die in battle, and the North Carolina Women of the Confederacy monument.
The Historical Commission’s next meeting is Sept. 22. Three of 11 voting members are Cooper appointees.