Following the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, protesters in Durham, North Carolina took down a Confederate monument on Monday night. In response to that spontaneous action, the state’s Democrat governor, Roy Cooper, took to Twitter to say that while “the racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable … there is a better way to remove these monuments.”
On Tuesday, three people were arrested for taking part in the protest and toppling the Confederate statue. North Carolina has repeatedly ruled against removing Confederate monuments, and the state legislature passed a law in 2015 that would require state approval to dismantle or move statues to places they were not originally placed (i.e. museums). The protesters are also facing charges of disorderly conduct, rioting, and destruction of property — charges that carry heavy fines and possible prison sentences.
Possibly with this potential incarceration in mind, Gov. Cooper took to Medium later Tuesday to say that North Carolina should remove all of the Confederate monuments on public land in the state.
“Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights,” he wrote. “But history is not on their side. We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.”
Cooper went on to say that what happened in Charlottesville could have happened in North Carolina cities and that he couldn’t fathom how these monuments make non-white people feel:
I don’t pretend to know what it’s like for a person of color to pass by one of these monuments and consider that those memorialized in stone and metal did not value my freedom or humanity. Unlike an African-American father, I’ll never have to explain to my daughters why there exists an exalted monument for those who wished to keep her and her ancestors in chains.
In his post, Cooper elaborated on his “better way” comments by saying protesters who take measures into their own hands run the risk of getting injured while using DIY methods to bring statues down as well as clashing with counter-protesters who are armed.
Cooper suggests repealing the 2015 law that prevents removal of these statues without approval from the state and give the decision-making responsibilities back to local governments. Cooper is taking another step to find out how much it would cost to remove the statues and figure out proper places for them to go to instead. Thirdly, he calls for the state Senate to not pass the bill that waives liability for motorists who hit protesters with their cars. “The Senate should kill it. Full stop.”
This will be a serious undertaking for Cooper, but seeing as his predecessor signed the law against removing the statues a month after Dylann Roof killed nine people at a church in Charleston, it’ll be an uphill battle. Especially since, not too far away, Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam (who’s running for governor) has suggested that Confederate statues in his state “should be taken down and moved into museums.”