Meck Co. commissioners, public discuss confederate monument
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For more than an hour and half Tuesday night, the Confederate Veterans Reunion Monument in Charlotte had center stage at the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners meeting.
The monument, built in 1929 after a reunion of Confederate veterans, is located on North Kings Drive between the Grady Cole Center and Memorial Stadium.
After nine people were shot and killed in a Charleston Church last month allegedly by a 21-year-old who was previously photographed with the Confederate battle flag, there has been a public debate about whether confederate flags and monuments should be removed.
"That's pitiful. And it's disgusting for y'all to do that. It don't make sense," said one man – who told County Commissioners – " blacks fought for the confederacy." That speaker said " the flag didn't kill anyone."
Another speaker said "I believe removal of the memorial is the right thing to do and overdue because I believe that monuments and words engraved on them on public land - the land of the people - should be inclusive of all people."
Many people have taken issue with some of the words engraved on the monument that says "Accepting the arbitrament of war, they preserved the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South and became Master Builders in a Reunited County."
Dr. Dan Morrill of the Historic Landmarks Commission told commissioners" the monument is a product of its time" and a "surviving artifact of a major public event."
Dr. Morrill said because the monument is on county property, county leaders have to decide what to do, then apply to the Historic Landmarks Commission.
According to Dr. Morrill, the commission would determine if any requested action "is appropriate or not based on design review guidelines."
Commissioners also voiced their opinions about the monument.
Commissioner George Dunlap said he believes the issue was brought to attention because the media looked for, sought out and located monuments.
Dunlap doesn't believe the monument should be removed."It's a part of history. Not pleasant history but it's a part of history" he said. "When you start messing with one person's history, they start messing with your history."
"And I know that walking past that monument might be hurtful to some but it is what it is. It's not my history but it's history" Commissioner Dunlap said.
Commissioner Jim Puckett said "judge historic monuments in their time. Language is also in their time."
Puckett said the Confederate Monument speaks to accepting the judgment of war and reuniting the country. "I hope we have the good sense to leave it there, teach our kids the good and the bad" he said.
Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said talk of removing the monument is "saddening to him" and it appears people are trying to "whitewash and cleanse history. Ridenhour said the monument is a snapshot in time.
"Rather than being a disgrace to our community, that monument can stand as a teachable moment for future generations" he said.
Ridenhour said Confederate veterans should be recognized as veterans and the monument should not be removed.
Commissioner Vilma Leake said the gunman who shot and killed the nine Church members during Bible study "was not sick. He knew what he was doing."
Leake said over the years the Confederate battle flag symbolized hate and white supremacy.
"I hope that we know what the history was and partially is as we move to the future" Leake said. "Unless we correct some of the ills, we're not going to change mentality."
The Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, Trevor Fuller said the discussion was to get the temperature of the board on the topic.
Fuller said he takes issue with the fact the monument is on government property and he believes those who support leaving the monument are "romanticizing history."
Commissioner Fuller said the effort to "whitewash history" could lead to history repeating itself.
In the end, commissioners did not make any decisions. Instead, they asked County Manager Dena Diorio to review the discussion and make a determination about whether the issue needs to come before the board again.
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