A squat, stone marker honoring the Confederacy has been removed from its Plexiglas container near Charlotte's Grady Cole Center, and the chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission says there is no plan yet to return it, despite a state law governing the removal of historical markers.
Mecklenburg County Commission Chair George Dunlap says he directed the county manager to remove the marker on June 21 after he says he became aware of online threats to damage or deface it.
"There were mentions on social media," he said when reached by phone Thursday. "When we started getting emails about it and started reading about it on social media, I felt like it was time to do something before it was damaged again or destroyed."
Dunlap said the marker is now sitting in county storage, and commissioners don't yet have a plan to return it or relocate it elsewhere, despite a 2015 state law prohibiting the removal of monuments on public property.
Under the 2015 law, monuments and other "objects of remembrance" cannot be removed from public property unless they're relocated to a site of "similar prominence" that isn't a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum; or if the monument is owned by a private party and is moved under a legal agreement with the state.
Temporary relocation is allowed for construction, preservation work, or if a monument "poses a threat to public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition."
The marker near the Grady Cole Center was installed in 1929 during the 39th reunion of the United Confederate Veterans. It features engravings of two Confederate flags and a racist inscription that salutes Confederate soldiers who "preserved the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South and became master builders in a re-united country."
In recent years, the monument has been repeatedly targeted for vandalism. The Charlotte Observer reported in August 2015 that someone smeared liquid cement over the inscription and the flag engravings. Three weeks later, it was spray-painted with the names of eight of nine victims killed by a white supremacist at Emanual AME Church in Charleston.
Following both incidents, the county paid to have the monument cleaned, and county commissioners discussed the possibility of removing the marker, or adding a plaque with historical context. Neither effort was realized. Instead, the county installed a Plexiglas shield around the marker to protect it from future vandalism.
In his June 21 email to the county manager, Dunlap referenced the past vandalism, and said he had spoken to or received emails from other commissioners and members of the public about the monument.
He wrote that he had received an email that "amounts to a threat that causes me to believe that it (sic) we don't remove the monument for safety reasons, the monument will again be damaged. For this reason, I am asking that the monument at Grady Cole be removed immediately."
He requested that staff "bring to the board any and all options as to what can and should be done with the monument," and requested an investigation into other monuments on county property that commissioners might address.
As of Thursday, Dunlap said no decision had been made over whether the monument's removal would be permanent or if it would be relocated, saying only that it was "still being worked out."
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