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Democrats running for state Senate talk legislature’s role in Confederate monuments

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In the Democratic primary for N.C. Senate District 33, one candidate wants to start over with a law that prevents the relocation or removal of the downtown Confederate monument. The second said she wants to see a more united stance after she spends time listening and learning.

Last summer, the Salisbury City Council heard divided views from citizens on their preference of Confederate monument Fame’s future. The statue, which depicts a winged muse holding a fallen solider, had been vandalized in August 2018 and March 2019. Some citizens said they wanted to move Fame and others said they wanted the Confederate statue to remain at its location on the median of West Innes Street at Church Street.

But council members questioned if the city had the right to move Fame, which sits on private property owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

And, in fact, they were limited by previous action taken by the state legislature. In 2015 and with Sen. Carl Ford, then a member of the House and now the District 33 incumbent, the N.C. General Assembly signed a bill into law addressing the removal of monuments such as Fame.

The Cultural History Artifact Management and Patriotism Act said a monument, memorial or work of art owned by the state may not be removed, relocated or altered in any way without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission. Though there are exceptions for public safety and cases where no agreement exists between a private owner of the monument and the city that governs a relocation.

Councilwomen Karen Alexander and Tamara Sheffield said in June that those who are for moving the Confederate statue should go to the source of the law: the General Assembly.

Asked by the Salisbury Post how he would address questions about the monument if elected, District 33 candidate Geoffrey Hoy said he would like to vacate the law and plan to start over. The law should include a preamble to provide a “more complete understanding of our common history.”

Candidate Tarsha Ellis said she would like to see a more united stance from the district about whether the citizens would like to see statues remain or be moved.

“It’s important to listen to both sides,” Ellis said.”It would be fair for me to listen and learn about statues.” 

Since the discussion led by city council in the summer, there has been no further public discussion. Ellis said she is interested to hear preferred next steps from council. One person shouldn’t make the decision on Fame, she said.

She said she believes there is a compromise somewhere.

“There’s always common ground to work together to find,” Ellis said. 

Ellis also said she would let experts clarify if the Confederate monument is a public safety concern.

Hoy said he would like to deal with the issues surrounding the monument’s creation and those who oppose it, which he describes as creating an understanding of the two sides. One, he said, wants to honor the veterans. Others, he said, “suffered under slavery and the ravages of Jim Crow and lynching.”

“We have to acknowledge the truth of all the stories,” Hoy said.

Hoy said he wants local leaders to have a better understating of racial history. He said the city’s manager, some Rowan-Salisbury Schools leaders and Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes have participated in training. It’s important to start there, he said. Then, members of the legislature can take the lead.

“I do not believe that the deeper issues of personal identity, family history, or political viewpoints can be resolved by legislation,” Hoy said.

The two candidates, who will face off March 3 before one advances to take on Ford in the general election, will participate in a forum at 6:30 p.m. today at Trinity Oaks.

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