Pitt County faces calls to remove Confederate statue
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
State law likely would prevent Pitt County commissioners from acting on requests prompted by weekend events in Charlottesville, Va., to remove the Confederate statue that sits on the Pitt County Courthouse grounds.
Pitt County government's Twitter account received several tweets about the statue this weekend. On Saturday, one person tweeted: "on behalf of the black residents who make up 35 percent of Pitt County, I request that this statute [sic] be dismantled." The person’s twitter handle was de-j@truthstated.
On Sunday, @PittYoungDems tweeted: "Confederate monuments are coming down all across the South, is it time for #NorthCarolina to follow suit?" The tweet included a link to a CNN story that the mayor of Lexington, Ky., stated his city's Confederate statues would come down in response to violence that erupted during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday.
Pitt County responded on Saturday to @truthstated by saying the request would be forwarded to the Board of Commissioners and invited the tweeter to attend the commissioners’ Aug. 21 meeting and make the request in person.
By Monday afternoon a Facebook event page "Pitt County Board of Commissioners: Remove Confederate Monument" had been created urging the public to attend the 6 p.m. meeting.
The group also created a Change.org petition seeking the monument's removal. By 6:30 p.m. Monday 380 signatures had been collected.
County Attorney Janis Gallagher said along with the Twitter comments the commissioners would be given General Assembly Session Law 2015-170, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in July 2015. The session law states an "object of remembrance located on public property may not be permanently removed" unless it's being relocated to a "site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access that are within the boundaries of the jurisdiction from which it was relocated."
There are some exceptions that allow for removal for construction, renovation or reconfiguration of "buildings, open spaces, parking or transportation projects" or when its removal is necessary to preserve the object.
Attempts to reach a representative of Pitt County Young Democrats on Monday were unsuccessful.
The local commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans' Pitt County chapter declined to comment, referring the Reflector to a 2-year-old statement on the organization's state website.
The statement was written in response to acts of vandalism of Confederate monuments following the shooting deaths of nine black church members by self-professed white supremacist Dylann Roof. It said, in part, "Monuments, whether to soldiers who fought in the War Between the States or to George Washington or to a Booker T. Washington, are symbols of our collective history. They are visible reminders that recall our past. Certainly, not all of that past pleases everyone."
The Charlottesville rally, held to protest the pending removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, ended in a violent clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. Two Virginia state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash when responding to the incident.
A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a car that smashed into a crowd of counter protesters. James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death and lesser charges stemming from the injuries suffered by others in the crowd.
Contact Ginger Livingston at email@example.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.