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North Carolina Town Removes Chatham Confederate Monument

A Confederate monument in Pittsboro, N.C., was removed this week after it stood for 112 years outside of the Chatham County courthouse.

About 50 people who both supported and opposed the removal gathered as the monument — a bronze statue of a soldier on a marble pedestal — was taken down Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, WRAL reports.

This memorial is the latest to be taken down from a public space amid debates about whether monuments celebrating the Confederacy glorify its fight for slavery during the Civil War. The county Board of Commissioners voted to remove the Chatham statue in August. Then, the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the group that donated the statue in 1907, challenged the vote in court. This month, a judge ruled that the group did not provide sufficient evidence as to why the statue should remain outside of the courthouse.

Because it is technically the property of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the fact that the group did not make moves to take it down right after the vote in August was considered a public trespass.

Following the Board of Commissioners’ vote, months of protests began. On Saturday, a fight broke out between pro- and anti-monument demonstrators. Eleven people were arrested.

Debates over the Chatham Confederate statue have mirrored those of similar instances throughout the South: Some people believe the monuments celebrate slavery, while others maintain they simply memorialize fallen soldiers and acknowledge southern history and heritage.

Robert Butler, a demonstrator who watched the removal Tuesday night, said it was upsetting.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Butler told WRAL. “A statue’s never hurt a soul, just like a grave memorial. Do they hurt anybody?”

But others, like Anderson Ritter, said they were glad the memorial was being removed because of what it stood for.

“It represents stuff that never really should have happened, and it kind of memorializes and makes it seem good,” Ritter told the outlet. “I and other people don’t agree with that.”

An Elon University poll that came out Wednesday found 65% of the 1,467 North Carolina residents the researchers surveyed believe Confederate monuments should remain on public government property. Throughout the country, the percentages are similar. Fifty-four percent of Americans believe these statues should stay, according to a 2017 poll. However, these results are split among racial, ideological and party lines. First, in the Elon poll, it is important to note that 70.6% of survey respondents were white, which is reflective of the state’s census demographics. Seventy-three percent of Black residents agreed the monuments should be removed. According to the poll, 67% of Democrats supported the removal of Confederate monuments on public government property.

There also is a fundamental disagreement on what the Civil War was about. Forty-four percent of respondents said they believed the Civil War was mainly about slavery, while nearly 49% said they believed it was mainly about states’ rights. Most people who said they believe the monuments should remain also saw the war as being mainly about states’ rights.

Monument supporters rallied outside of the Chatham County courthouse Wednesday afternoon, flying Confederate flags. Butler told WRAL that to him, the memorial simply honored soldiers who died.

“I know it stands for other things for other people, but for the ones that stand out here and support it, it’s for the soldiers who didn’t get to come home,” Butler told WRAL.

According to the county’s news release, the statue and pedestal will be “transported to a safe location where they will be preserved and stored” until the Winnie Davis chapter “finds a more appropriate location to place them.”

The removal of the monument cost $44,000 and will pay $300 a month to store it in a local warehouse until the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy decides where to put it.

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