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Leave monument alone, commissioners say


Alamance County’s Confederate monument is under guard after a demonstration June 9 in Graham. [ISAAC GROVES / TIMES-NEWS]


— Alamance County commissioners who have commented on potentially removing the Confederate monument on Court Square want to leave it where it is.

“I’m not of moving it,” Commissioner Eddie Boswell said Monday, June 22. “It’s a memorial; it’s been there for more than 100 years.”

Hagood sent an email to the commissioners Saturday night, June 20, recommending moving the monument from its spot in front of the Historic Courthouse after opposing groups gathered on Court Square the evening after protesters pulled down monuments in Raleigh, to avoid “disaster or disgrace” by having someone hurt or killed, or having law enforcement pushed back by a crowd and the monument torn down, as happened Friday in Raleigh.

Graham rescinded a state of emergency with a 9 p.m. curfew Monday that had been in effect since Saturday night. It was at least the third such state of emergency since George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis touched off nationwide protests.

Commissioner Tim Sutton said he spoke to Hagood on Saturday evening after seeing the crowds on Court Square. Some on the scene told him there were social media messages about people coming to tear the monument down. Sutton told Hagood to wait for the sheriff to do his job.

Sutton said he was surprised later at Hagood’s idea about moving the monument, and at his “tone.” While Sutton said he also dreaded the prospect of violence over the monument, he did not believe the county should back down in the face of threats.

“You obviously don’t have the will of our Regulators or the will of Patrick Henry,” Sutton said he wrote to Hagood later in an email. “To placate those that refuse to reason is not my style.”

Others who saw Saturday night’s events reacted differently.

“Confederate monuments support a white-supremacist mythology designed to romanticize and mischaracterize what is in point of fact an armed rebellion against the United States for the sake of maintaining the institution of slavery,” Barrett Brown, president of the Alamance Branch of the NAACP, said in a video released Sunday.

Brown called on the county to move the monument from the courthouse, which he called “a public humiliation to the descendants of slaves.” Brown emphasized that he did not support “activism through vandalism,” but said the county’s leadership would bear the responsibility if there was violence protecting the monument.

Michael Graves, who organized the large, peaceful demonstration June 9 in Graham over Floyd’s death wrote to a long list of current and former local officials, including the commissioners and private-sector leaders, asking to have the monument moved.

“I watched Saturday night as people literally chose sides of the street in downtown Graham,” Graves wrote. “They yelled racial epitaphs at each other, and made gestures toward each other that accompanied words of hate. I watched in amazement as people in trucks rolled around with Confederate flags on the back of their trucks, and people paraded down the streets of Graham with the Confederate flag.

“I don’t think it would have taken much for the opposing groups last night to have crossed the street and a virtual bloodbath or at least chaos [would have] been the result. We do not know what people have in their cars or trucks or on their persons.”

A petition to remove the monument on now had more than 15,500 names Monday afternoon.

Sutton said he had spoken to another official who seemed open to the idea of selling the monument to a group that could move it to a private location. Sutton said he could entertain the idea if the Daughters of the Confederacy, who originally gave the statue to the county, and the Sons of the Confederacy supported it, but was skeptical that would happen or end the controversy, saying many North Carolina towns and cities are named after people with troubling histories.

Boswell also said moving the monument would not be the end of the issue, saying demonstrators might turn their attention to the county’s war memorial at the J.B. Allen Court House in Graham, or police memorials.

“If they take that down where are they going next?” Boswell asked.