GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A lawsuit filed in Gaston County aims to have a Confederate monument relocated off public property.
The suit is directed at the Confederate Heroes Monument that stands in front of the Gaston County Courthouse. The monument has long been the subject of protest and debate. Many county residents want the statue removed, claiming that it is offensive. Others have disagreed, arguing that the monument should be left standing because of the heritage it represents.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of the local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Association for Black Veterans, and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity argues that the statue should be removed because it threatens public safety and stands in violation of multiple provisions of the North Carolina Constitution.
The Gaston County Board of County Commissioners had previously made an agreement with members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have the statue relocated, but after the deal fell through, the statue was left standing.
“The Gaston County Commissioners themselves recognize that the monument has to go. Just earlier this year, they agreed to remove the monument, in fact, but then in late August reneged on that commitment leaving the citizens of the county and us as the coalition of lawyers representing them no choice but to file this lawsuit,” explained Gagan Gupta, one of the attorneys who helped to file the lawsuit.
Gupta spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Monday night and explained the basis for the lawsuit.
“The monument is unconstitutional under our North Carolina state constitution which specifically prohibits acts of racism or acts that sort of sew discord in communities across our state, and in short the monument promotes racial divide and divides the county. It has since it was erected in the early 20th century and continues to do so today,” explained Gupta.
He noted that the statue also costs taxpayer money to maintain. The suit requests that the county be given 45 days to develop a thoughtful plan to relocate the statue.
Multiple county commissioners and Gaston County Attorney Jonathan Sink told WBTV they could not comment on the pending litigation.
One of the commissioners, Ronnie Worley, said he could not speak about the lawsuit, but did reiterate his thoughts on the future of the monument.
“I would like to see that we find an alternative site for that monument so if that comes out of it, I guess, you know, maybe that will be a good thing,” said Worley.
Gupta said he hopes to have movement on the litigation within the Gaston County court system at some point within the first half of 2021.
“Perhaps we can even avoid a messy battle in court. We’re just asking the county to do what they had already promised to do and follow what other counties have done throughout North Carolina and provide leadership to our community,” said Gupta.