GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Confederate statue outside the Gaston County courthouse has been a hot button topic for weeks now. Some community members have demanded the statue be moved. Others want it to stay where it is.
It will be up to the Board of Commissioners on what to do with the statue. But first they put together a group from different backgrounds and experiences to discuss what should happen to the statue and make a recommendation on what to do.
That group is being called the ‘Council of Understanding’ and is made up of 12 community members, appointed by different commissioners. Six of the members are for the relocation of the statue, the other six want it to stay.
After several meetings, they will take a vote and present their decision to the Board of Commissioners. If there’s a dead lock, the decision on what to do with the monument will be up to a commissioner vote.
Tuesday’s meeting was focused on introducing the goals of the group and how it will proceed, but debate over the monument started as well.
“The belief in white supremacy is interwoven into the history of the monument from its conception. It cannot be separated and can only be acknowledged,” said Jason Luker who is the director of the Gaston County Museum of Art & History.
The Council of Understanding heard his interpretation of the context behind the monument. He read aloud a speech which was printed in the Gaston County Gazette when the monument was first introduced.
“If there is something that is going to lead to unrest in our community, why on God’s green earth are we going to continue to allow that unrest,” said James Muhammad, who wants to see the monument relocated.
“Whether we like it, or don’t like it. Its come or gone, we cant change history. But we learn from it,” said Bruce Cloninger.
Many of the six members who want to keep the monument says it comes down to protecting the history of Gaston County. Where the other six says the monument misrepresents the people of Gaston County.
But the big debate happened after the county attorney spoke.
County attorney Jonathan Sink said according to this state law Gaston County can only relocate the statue *if* it goes to somewhere of equal prominence. A museum or a cemetery doesn’t count.
“Thank you for your overview of the law. I must say I disagree with your analysis,” said council of understanding member and attorney, Chery Comer. “If the commission decides its time to move it, that’s why all these statues are being removed. It’s completely disingenuous for this man to stand up and say it can’t be moved.”
“These are state law requirements that would have to be justified legally,” Sink said.
You can read the law which guides the removal and relocation of monuments here.
One member brought up the "Fame" statue being removed in Salisbury last night as a way to justify the legal right for Gaston County to remove the statue if this group eventually makes that decision.
It’s a slightly different situation since the “Fam”e statue was privately owned and maintained by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
They were the ones who ultimately decided to remove it.
This group is meeting again on Thursday. The group will continue to work and understand the legality of relocating the statue.
They will meet several more times before ultimately voting and making a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.