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Tentative deal in the works to relocate ‘Fame’ Confederate statue

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The city of Salisbury confirmed Friday that a tentative deal is in the works to relocate the “Fame” Confederate statue.

Mayor Karen Alexander said the deal has been a community-led effort and that city officials have not been in direct contact with the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which owns the statue and to which the city deeded land in the early 1900s. Alexander is guiding community members who are leading the process until it comes to the council for a final vote. A community member has been working with the UDC on details of the arrangement.

Alexander said she’s “taking information from community members involved in the effort and relaying it to the city attorney to include in the overall agreement.” One location being discussed is a cemetery in the 500 block of North Lee Street, where tombstones for Confederate soldiers sit. Alexander said that site was suggested by people who are heirs to the original United Daughters of the Confederacy members who raised funds for the statue.

The agreement still needs to be signed, notarized, and approved by the Salisbury City Council, which meets on Tuesday. Though, members of the Salisbury City council told the Post Friday morning that they were unaware a tentative deal had been reached.

Alexander said there is a chance a special emergency meeting could be called to vote on the deal, if finalized, before the council meets on Tuesday. Alexander also said she hopes the process can be conducted in a way that the community agrees upon without the need for litigation.

Debate over the location of “Fame” has reignited recently with swaths of the community calling the monument a public safety issue after a man fired gunshots into the air on May 31 during a protest to honor George Floyd and other black Americans who have been killed because of injustice. Jeffrey Long has since been charged with firing those shots and other crimes.

Police used tear gas and riot gear the following night to disperse a crowd protesting near the statue. A man threw a rock through the window of the Salisbury Post. Harvey Lee McCorkle III has since been charged in that incident.

Both events are part of nationwide protests of racial injustice and police brutality following Floyd’s death, who was shown in a viral video dying while a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

A recent city council discussion, including public comments, spanned nearly two hours of a meeting on June 2. More than a dozen locals voiced their support for relocating the statue. Additionally, two Salisbury High School alumnae recently created a petition to relocate the statue that has amassed more than 7,000 signatures.

But the statue has for years been a flashpoint.

A 2015 mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, prompted a nationwide debate about Confederate symbols because of beliefs espoused by the shooter online. The city debated moving the monument then but took no action.

After the statue was twice vandalized with paint in August 2018 and March 2019, another debate arose about its removal, including a public meeting that drew a crowd of attendees. While the city attempted to organize a discussion about that time about the statue’s relocation, Confederate groups refused to take part. No person has been charged in either vandalism incident.

Those who support the relocation from the current spot cite it as a symbol of racism and white supremacy that better serves its historic purpose in a cemetery or museum. Proponents of Fame’s current location, such as the Fame Preservation Group, declare it synonymous with downtown Salisbury, and revere it as a memorial of history.

The statue was dedicated in 1909.

One year earlier, on Aug. 5, 1908, the city reportedly gave land ownership under the statue to the UDC when Salisbury’s then Board of Aldermen OK’d a resolution giving the UDC rights to the land on West Innes Street. It wasn’t until 1927 when that vote was officially recorded by a document signed by former Mayor A.H. Boyden.

The document states “that said site shall be used perpetually for said monument, and shall be under the care of said Robert F. Hoke Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and its successors, from generation to generation, subject to such rules and regulations, as may be prescribed by said chapter and approved by the Board of Aldermen of the city of Salisbury.”

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