City of Winston-Salem orders removal and relocation of downtown Confederate monument

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The City of Winston-Salem has ordered the removal and relocation of a Confederate statue in the city’s downtown, according to a letter sent by city's attorney on Monday to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

“It is a symbol of oppression and the subjugation of the African-American people and so it’s hurtful to many in our community,” Mayor Allen Joines told FOX8 on Wednesday.

The order comes in the wake of another vandalism of the privately-owned monument, which got the city “to thinking that this could be a situation that can create violence,” Joines said.

Police said they responded to a call that the monument had been defaced at 5:24 p.m. Christmas Day. There, they found that the monument had the words “cowards & traitors” written on it in what appeared to be permanent marker.

This is also not the first time it’s been vandalized. In August 2017, someone spray-painted the monument, nearly a week after the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests.

“This is not something that should be touched,” said Christopher Grignon, who walked by the statue Wednesday morning.

The monument, which was erected in 1905, sits at the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets but is not on public grounds. The statue is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but the ground on which it stands is owned by Winston Courthouse, LLC, according to documents.

“That monument [didn’t do anything to anybody] that’s just a statue,” Winston-Salem resident Sandra Williams said.

Joines told FOX8 the city had spoken with the United Daughters of the Confederacy about the possibility of moving the monument to Salem Cemetery, where he says there are 36 Confederate graves, but the United Daughters of the Confederacy declined.

“We’re trying to be very proactive in this regard and we’ve offered, I think, a very quality solution to it,” he added.

When asked why the United Daughters of the Confederacy declined in the past, Joines says they cited a 2015 law enacted in North Carolina which protects monuments on public grounds. However, Joines says the city believes the statue can be removed because it is on private grounds.

“The city attorney has opinioned that we can declare this a public nuisance because of the potential for violence,” Joines detailed.

The letter sent Monday directs the Daughters of the Confederacy to remove and relocate the monument by Jan. 31, citing "concerns for overall public safety and protection of the statue." The letter also states that the statue needs to be protected "from vandals and others looking to create a Charlottesville type incident in Winston-Salem."

FOX8 made several attempts to contact the United Daughters of the Confederacy for comment but have not heard back.

There is a rally planned in support of the monument on Jan. 13. The event, held by the organization Heirs to the Confederacy, will begin in Chapel Hill from 9 a.m. to noon, then will transition to Winston-Salem from 2 to 5 p.m.

K. Lance Spivey, founder and chairman of the organization’s board of directors, says the rally is planned to remind the country that “something terrible happened” and remind people about the Civil War and “everything that led up to it.”

Spivey says his organization does not support slavery or racism. He adds that his personal feeling is the monument was put where it was “for a reason,” adding that it’s on private property, so there’s “no reason to move it.”

Spivey also adds that he understands people are worried about violence, but fears that if the monument is moved to the cemetery it “could result in Confederate graves being vandalized.”

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