Politics & Government

NC Confederate statues should stay where they are, speakers tell state committee

State law doesn't allow Confederate statues to be moved from the Capitol grounds in Raleigh to a Civil War battlefield, speakers at a public hearing told a state committee Wednesday.

Support for keeping the monuments in Raleigh rather than moving them, as Gov. Roy Cooper's administration has proposed, dominated the hour-long hearing. The committee will consider the public hearing comments, written comments, and input from outside experts and historians as it discusses the petition to relocate three statues to Bentonville Battlefield in Johnston County.

A 2015 state law puts strict limits on when public monuments can be moved. When they are relocated, they can be moved only to places of similar prominence.

Cooper proposed moving the monuments last year after a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead. In the months since the rally, cities around the country have removed Confederate statutes from prominent places.

People who identified themselves as leaders of Confederate heritage groups turned out Wednesday to tell Historical Commission members they shouldn't move the statues. Many others said their ancestors fought for the South in the Civil War.

"Those are North Carolinians that are honored on the state grounds," said Gary Williamson of Snow Camp. "Those monuments mean everything to me. We will fight until hell freezes over. Then we will fight on ice."

Those who want the statues moved said they are monuments to a pro-slavery past.

Winifred Richardson of Knightdale said walking past the monuments "turns my stomach." The state shouldn't have monuments to traitors, she said.

The Historical Commission is on pace to make a decision about the monuments by the end of May, said Chairman David Ruffin.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821; @Lynn_Bonner
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