Alamance County Board of Commissioners responds to community leaders calling for Graham Confederate statue to be relocated

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GRAHAM, N.C. — The Alamance County Board of Commissioners has responded to community leaders, including multiple local mayors, who have called on the commissioners and Graham City Council members to move a Confederate monument as debate rekindles.

Their full response is provided below:

“County attorney Clyde Albright has advised the Alamance County Board of Commissioners that, pursuant to state and federal law, Alamance County does not have the legal authority to move the Confederate Veterans Memorial at courthouse square. The monument in Graham is an object of remembrance as defined by North Carolina General Statute 100-2.1, which gives it different legal status than a statue of an individual person or a commemoration of a battle or event. The county manager neglected to obtain information about the legality of his opinion before he offered it.

The drafting and announcement of this open letter is troubling. Very few of the people who participated in this statement (four of the fifty-six) have contacted any one of the five commissioners in the past few months to discuss their concerns about the monument. We have learned that at least some of those whose support for this letter was sought were told, “Don’t tell the commissioners” about the effort to draft it. Mayor Baltutis waited until 9:40 am on Monday, twenty minutes before his press conference was to begin, to inform Chair Galey, which prevented her from being able to attend.

One may ask, why would the authors of this letter not want the commissioners to know that it was being drafted and circulated? Why was it done in secret and then unveiled at a press conference? This would lead an observer to believe that this “call to action” is political in nature. Its true purpose would not appear to be to persuade the commissioners, but to ambush them in as public a manner as possible.

We do not doubt that those who signed the letter are sincere in their beliefs and hope to see the county find a resolution to this difficult challenge. The best way to seek a resolution is not by operating in secret, drawing up in opposing lines, and engaging with the press. Alamance County deserves leaders who are willing to reach out and communicate with one another.”

At 10 a.m. Monday, more than two dozen local leaders lined up to speak at a news conference at Alamance Foods in Graham.

The monument stands in the Courthouse Square “at the symbolic heart of our county at the epicenter of government,” Burlington Mayor Ian Baltutis said.

“While this artifact is undeniably part of our history, for many in our community, it represents an ideology incompatible with equality,” Baltutis said. “The history of Confederate monuments in the United States is complex. While many believe they exist simply to honor fallen soldiers, in actuality they were erected at a time of fervent white supremacy.”

He says the monument acts a barrier to inclusion as it stands before the courthouse, “an entity which has historically failed to serve our communities of color with equality.”

Baltutis and dozens of community leaders say they are calling upon the Alamance County Commissioners and the City Council of Graham to take action to relocate the monument in a respectful and appropriate manner.

“Relocation of the monument will remove the threat to the public safety that has been created by this symbol in the Courthouse Square of Graham,” Baltutis said.

Baltutis said the letter has garnered the support of more than 50 community leaders. The following names were included as signers of this letter:

Ian Baltutis, Mayor, City of Burlington

Ed Hooks, Mayor, City of Mebane

Lenny Williams, Mayor, Town of Gibsonville

Carissa Graves-Henry, Mayor, Town of Green Level

Jim Powell

Connie Book, President, Elon University

Leo Lambert, President Emeritus, Elon University

Patsy Simpson, School Board Member, Alamance Burlington School System

Steve Van Pelt, School Board Member, Alamance Burlington School System

Brian Feeley, School Board Member, Alamance Burlington School System

Wayne Beam, School Board Member, Alamance Burlington School System

Kathy Colville, Healthy Communities Director, Cone Health

Quinn Ray, Alderman, Town of Elon

Emily Sharpe, Alderman, Town of Elon

Doug Williams, CEO, Buckner Companies

Bill Scott Jr., President, Alamance Foods, Inc

LeAndra N. Ratliff, Chair-Elect, Alamance Chamber of Commerce

Jill Auditori, Mayor Pro-Tem, City of Mebane

Sean C. Ewing, Councilmember, City of Mebane

Patty Philipps, Councilmember, City of Mebane

President Barrett Brown, Alamance NAACP

Jim Bryan, President, Fairystone Fabrics

Preston Hammock, Senior VP, Cone Health

Lavern Delaney, Chief Nursing Officer and VP, Cone Health

Mandy Eaton, EVP People & Culture, Cone Health

Laura Vail, Director, Health Equity, Cone Health

Griffin McClure, Green & McClure Furniture

Jason Cox, The Monroe Companies

Lee Kimrey, Lee Kimrey Construction, LLC

Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Hykes, City of Burlington

Rev. Anita Thompson, Presiding Elder, Western NC Conference – AME Church

Rev. Tamara Kersey-Brown, Wayman Chapel AME

Rev. Gwendolyn Benjamin, Sr. Pastor, Wayman Chapel AME

Rev. Jay Kennett

Rev. Beth Kennett

Ken Smith, President, Alamance Pride

Tamara Kersey, Secretary, Alamance Pride

Laurin Kier, Incoming treasurer, Alamance Pride

Gabrielle Legrand, At-large board member, Alamance Pride

John Currin

Yun Boylston, MD, Burlington Pediatrics

Lisa Pennington, Chief, Community & Corporate Well-Being, & Past Chair, Alamance Chamber of Commerce

Mark Gordon, President, Alamance Regional Medical Center

Rev. Dr. Bridgette Gloster, Senior Pastor, Springdale AME, Burlington

Rev. Dr. Clay Gloster Jr. Associate Pastor, Springdale AME Burlington

Pastor A. Offord Carmichael, Jr. – Clover Garden, Burlington NC

Mac Williams, President, Alamance Chamber of Commerce

David K Mertz, MD

David Carter, Allen Tate Realtors

The debate over the Confederate monument that sits outside the Historical Alamance County Courthouse has returned to light as groups continue to make their stances known.

Over the weekend of June 20, two groups of people descended upon the monument.

One, protesting the placement of the statue, while others, who support the statue where it stands, held Confederate flags and stood next to it.

Things became aggressive when two men confronted two people who were there to film the protests.

One man was charged with disorderly conduct, while another was charged with assault on a female.

“It was very tense; it seems to be a threat to public safety at this point,” Graham Chapter of the NAACP President Barrett Brown said.

The debate over the statue has been a battle of his for years.

He said it’s about trying to “have some truth and reconciliation, it’s time for this monument to go for all sorts of ethical and moral reasons.”

In the past he explained that he and his group have had conversations with county leaders. They want to see the statue moved to a different location.

“If the monument was in a museum, or on a battlefield, where it could be an educational tool with context, that would be completely different,” he said.

In those attempts, his group got far into the conversation, but the debate over who owns the land, the statue, and who can move it, have been a major hold up.

Those who oppose the monument being moved anywhere without a vote from the public argue it belongs to the public and no one else.

“That is a local representation of the people from Alamance County who died during the Civil War,” said Gary Williamson, the founder of ACTBAC.

He argues that the monument is not a symbol of hate, but heritage.

“It is a representation of the people of Alamance County who, at the time, felt like they were fighting for what they believed in,” Williamson said.

As the conversations grow over it, so do the discussions about where to move it.

While Brown points toward a setting that provides historical content, Williamson fears it would be vandalized if moved anywhere else.

FOX8 reached out to all of the Alamance County Commissioners. The only person who responded was Commissioner Tim Sutton.

He said the commissioners have not had a chance to discuss this recent issue.

He does not know if this would be a topic placed up for a vote in the near future. He even stressed that it could be left up to the newest members of the county commissioners, as most of those on the board were looking to leave after this term.

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