City of Lexington to take legal action to remove Confederate monument after Davidson County commissioners refuse

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DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — The City of Lexington is taking matters into their own hands after the Davidson County commissioners said they would not remove the Confederate statue in Lexington.

For weeks, crowds have surrounded the Confederate monument in uptown Lexington in a show of support or protest. 

Last month, the Lexington City Council unanimously approved a resolution to present to the county commissioners requesting the removal of the Confederate statue from its current location. 

According to the city, on Aug. 6, city staff received an official response from the county denying the request. 

The property the Confederate monument is located on is county-owned, putting the responsibility on county commissioners to decide what happens to the statue. 

Lexington Mayor Newell Clark said city officials are disappointed that county officials haven’t been willing to come to the table to find solutions.

On Thursday, the city announced that the Lexington City Council will be taking legal action to remove and relocate the Confederate monument.

Clark said he’s primarily concerned about public safety. Since June 1, 13 police officers have been assigned to the activity at the monument. The chief of police says it’s putting a burden on the force.

“The City of Lexington has repeatedly made attempts to the Davidson County Board of Commissioners, County Manager and County Attorney to collaboratively find solutions to resolve civil unrest, a public nuisance and potential for threats to public safety relating to the Confederate Monument located on Davidson County-owned property in the heart of Lexington,” the city said in a statement. “Despite multiple attempts made by the City of Lexington, Davidson County officials have dismissed every opportunity to date to unite in addressing the concerns of residents.”

Shortly after the announcement, the Davidson County commissioners responded with statement. The county says they do not have the power to remove the monument per North Carolina law. The full statement is included below:

The Lexington City Council has demanded that Davidson County remove the memorial on the old
courthouse square to the Davidson County men who died in the Civil War.

The law in North Carolina is clear: a monument or memorial on public property is protected and may not be removed or relocated. There are very limited circumstances that provide for an exception to the prohibition on removal. None of those exceptions apply to the memorial that the City Council seeks to have removed. The justification given by the City Council for removal, that the memorial is a threat to public safety due to recent protests, does not meet any of the limited exceptions provided in the law. Davidson County, through its officials and professional staff, have repeatedly advised the City of the County’s obligation under law to protect all memorials on County property.

Davidson County has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit filed by the City Council. Once it is received the Office of the County Attorney will review the lawsuit and file an appropriate response.

It is unfortunate that the City Council, particularly in the midst of our community struggling to address challenges created by the pandemic, has chosen to spend staff time and taxpayer dollars to bring this lawsuit.

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