GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Gaston County Board of Commissioners is working on forming a community-driven committee to review a confederate statue, which sits outside the courthouse after organizations called for it to be removed.
This committee will ultimately decide if it stays outside the courthouse or is relocated to somewhere else. This committee is being formed after several protests and a community meeting pushed commissioners to address the growing controversy surrounding the statue.
Even after the committee was announced, organizations like the Gaston County Freedom Fighters continued to organize protests. One happened on Monday night.
“We plan to continue to march basically to still shed light so it doesn’t get swept under the rug with ‘Oh yeah, we’re meeting you guys peacefully and working to find a negotiation’, we still want everyone to know whats going on,” said Jamal Gillespie, founder of the Gaston County Freedom Fighters.
The Freedom Fighters don’t want to destroy the statue, but rather move it to a new location where it makes more sense.
“For me coming into the court room and looking at this statue, my first thought was confusion. Why isn’t their a symbol of justice or balance,” he asked.
Monday night’s protests drew about 50 people in support of removing the statue from outside the courthouse.
There was a smaller group of counter protesters across the street, which were holding Confederate flags. There is a counter petition circulating with hundreds of signatures to keep the statue where it is outside the court house as well.
But some of the focus has moved away from the statue and on to Facebook. One protester says this debate has turned personal.
“I was surprised that he would do something like that, he knows I’m disabled. He knows I can’t walk and use a cane,” said Kimberley Hallas, who is an activist in the Gaston County community.
She’s referring to a Facebook post posted by Commissioner Tracy Philbeck in response to Monday night’s protest, which was originally a protests against him and the statue.
In the post he refers to Hallas as a “weeble wobble.”
Hallas’ full Facebook name is “Kimberley Reid Hallas (Emperess Kiki Weeble Wobble).” She says it was a pet name given to her from her boyfriend, referring to her disability.
“I make fun or joke about my condition of a way of dealing with it. But to have somebody else, that’s coming from a political point of view, that’s making light of a condition. I’m befuddled,” Hallas said.
“Shes the one who put it out there, not me,” said Commissioner Philbeck over the phone when WBTV called to ask about the post. “Her Facebook is public record. You’re asking me if its appropriate to share what someone put on Facebook publicly.? Absolutely it is.
Philbeck says he made the post about Hallas after she re-posted a photo of Philbeck’s, which he says was taken out of context. As of Monday, that post has been deleted.
“You can’t as a citizen absolutely try to destroy someones character and then turn around and play victim and say you’re not supposed to say anything to me. It doesn’t work that way,” Philbeck said.
The Gaston County Freedom Fighters are working to make sure their voices are represented on the committee that’s being formed by the commissioners.
Commissioner Philbeck says that the committee should be completely identified soon and get to work in the next few weeks. He hopes to have an answer on what to do about the statue in the next 60 days.
In the meantime, Gaston County deputies are watching the front of the courthouse for any more protests or counter-protests.