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Crime & Justice

Lawsuit Seeks Removal Of Confederate Monument At Gaston County Courthouse

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Ann Doss Helms
/
WFAE

A lawsuit has been filed in Gaston County seeking the removal of a Confederate monument outside the county courthouse, arguing that it violates several provisions in the North Carolina Constitution.

The suit was filed Thursday by a coalition of local groups led by the Gaston County chapter of the NAACP. The suit names Gaston County and the Gaston County Board of Commissioners as defendants.

The plaintiffs argue that by its position outside the courthouse, the towering, 35-foot monument denies Black residents' rights to equal protection under the state constitution.

Every juror who enters the courthouse must view "a governmental embrace of white supremacy before trying to provide impartial justice," the suit reads. "The Black plaintiffs and their members have no choice but to conduct daily activities in the shadow of a demeaning monument that repeatedly attracts those espousing racist and white supremacist views."

The lawsuit also argues that the monument violates a provision written into the state constitution in 1868 that directs the state to resist "all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation."

The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the monument in violation of the state constitution, and order its removal within 45 days of issuing a judgment.

The litigation is the latest development in an ongoing struggle by local activists to get the statue removed from the outside the courthouse.

Calls for the monument's removal began to swell in June, as many people around the nation joined marches and protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

Gaston County Commissioners appointed an advisory panel to come up with a recommendation for what to do with the monument. The panel ultimately voted 7-5 in favor of removal.

Commissioners then floated the idea of putting the statue's removal up for a county-wide vote, but later determined doing so would require changing a state law.

The commission instead voted in August to give the monument to the local Sons of Confederate Veterans on the condition that the group move the monument within 60 days.

The issue seemed to be resolved until later that month when the Confederate heritage group informed the commission that it was backing out of the deal. Commissioner Ronnie Worley said the group was worried about potential lawsuits.

The county commission later voted 4-3 to rescind its offer to the local Sons of Confederate Veterans and keep the statue in place.

Read the full lawsuit below.

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