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City OKs monuments’ removal, pending county approval
Monday, 15 June 2020 16:26

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council voted unanimously June 9 for a joint resolution to remove two downtown Confederate monuments, so the measure will be considered by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners sometime at its June 16 meeting.

“Democrats hold a four-person majority on the seven-member county board and have said they intend to support the measure, which also calls for a task force to discuss modifying or removing the controversial Vance Monument,” the Asheville Citizens Times noted on June 11.

“The county’s three GOP commissioners did not respond June 10 to texts or emails seeking comment, including Robert Pressley, the District 3 commissioner running for board chair against incumbent Democrat Brownie Newman,” the ACT stated.

If, as expected, the resolution is passed by the county, the ACT noted, “one perceived barrier remains: a 2015 North Carolina law that prohibits removing a monument on public land unless it is relocated to a ‘site of similar prominence.’”

To that end, monuments are exempt from the law if they are privately owned — and the city is contending that that is true of two of the structures being discussed.

However, City Attorney Brad Branham told the ACT it is less clear who owns Vance Monument and that “a more thorough search of historical records may be needed to make a final determination.”  

The joint resolution is “merely the starting point” and elected officials want to hear from the public on the issue, particularly regarding Vance Monument, before taking decisive action, the ACT quoted Branham as saying.

Branham acknowledged that there are legal issues to be addressed, but said state law “absolutely allows for removal or relocation under certain circumstances,” the ACT noted.

Shaneika Smith and Keith Young, who are council’s two African-American members, addressed the resolution before the vote.  

The ACT stated that “Young noted the monuments were erected after Reconstruction era, such as the Vance Monument, which was erected in 1898.  Young said white leaders of the city were sending a message at the time. ‘To remind black men and women, that (white people) still have power, still have control, and that this is your place in society.’”

Meanwhile, a group calling itself “Black Asheville Demands” is demanding that “50 percent of the APD’s (Asheville Police Department’s) budget should be invested in long-term safety strategies including supporting black startups/business, eliminating the racial opportunity gap in Asheville City Schools, and funding an all-civilian oversight committee with the power to hold the APD and individual officers accountable,” according to its website.

What’s more, the group’s website says, “We demand not just individual accountability for officers after lethal or violent use of force, but for accountability for the entire Asheville Police Department. We demand an end to the systemic harms inflicted on all black people, including black trans, queer and gender-nonconforming people.

“We demand repair for the past and continuing harms inflicted on Asheville’s black community... We demand that Asheville city government remove the Vance and Robert E Lee monuments and replace them with monuments that honor the many black Ashevillians who have built this city.

“We demand that streets named after former slave owners also be replaced with names of historic local black leaders.”



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