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Politics

Commissioners Pan Idea Of Removing Confederate Monument

In the aftermath of the Charleston shootings, there’s now scrutiny of numerous Confederate monuments in our region.  Last night, Mecklenburg County commissioners had a vigorous discussion about such a monument near Memorial stadium.  Most commissioners were in favor of leaving it alone.

The discussion started with a history lesson. The year was 1929 and thousands of people came to Charlotte for the 39th Confederate Reunion, Dan Morrill with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission told commissioners.   

Veterans, most of them in their eighties, encamped in a large tent city in Independence Park. The monument’s unveiling was the culmination of the event.

The monument has four Confederate flags engraved in the stone and reads, in part, “accepting the arbitrament of war, they preserved the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South.”

“Its language is dated and expresses segregationist values and sentiments that are no longer acceptable to the great majority of Americans. In essence, the monument is a product of its time, a very different time,” said Morrill. 

County Manager Dena Diorio put the subject on the agenda after a local media outlet she didn’t name pointed out the memorial and asked if the county was going to do anything about it.

Commissioners heard from a few citizens on both sides of the issue. Gary Ritter urged them to put it in a museum. 

“The county of Mecklenburg, the people of Mecklenburg should not continue to provide space on public land for these kinds of celebrations of discredited and shameful beliefs,” Ritter said.    

Joseph Turner told them to leave it be. 

“They’re veterans just like anybody else is and should be given the respect that any other veteran does,” said Turner.    

Then it was the commissioners turn. George Dunlap was the first to speak. 

“Let me start by saying, I hope we don’t spend a lot of time dealing with an issue that became an issue because of the media.”   

He said South Carolina’s problem is not Mecklenburg County’s. The county’s Confederate monument is on the edge of Memorial stadium, not a prominent place like the state house grounds.  

“That’s like in your face and I look at the two as being totally different,” said Dunlap. “I can promise you that had the media not brought this issue up, none of us, or most of us, would not have been aware of the fact that there were even monuments in Mecklenburg County dedicated to the Confederacy.”

Commissioner Jim Puckett said he and Dunlap often disagree, but not on this.    

“I hope we have the good sense to leave it there and I hope we have the good sense to remember to teach our children and their children what it means and how the good and the bad were part of our history,” said Puckett. 

Only two commissioners were in favor of removing the monument, one of them being Chairman Trevor Fuller. He said the real reason commissioners were talking about it is because the man accused of killing nine people in Charleston embraced the Confederate flag as a symbol “that has been used for over a century to kill, dismember, disenfranchise African Americans.” 

“There can be no mistake about it,” said Fuller. “If you’re comfortable with that, perhaps, you do nothing about it.” 

Commissioner Ella Scarborough had enough of the discussion. 

“At this time, there is no issue in Mecklenburg County and, therefore, I actually ask that this conversation cease,” Scarborough said emphatically.    

After an hour and a half, it did.

It’s now up to the County Manager to decide whether she wants to bring it up again or let it go, said Fuller. Any changes to the monument would need approval from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

The Confederate monument under discussion Tuesday night is the only one on county property. But the area has several monuments and markers linked to the Confederacy, including one outside Charlotte’s old city hall.