NC Residents Sue County to Remove Controversial Confederate Status

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In front of the Tyrrell County Courthouse stands a monument that is almost 20 feet tall and depicts a Confederate soldier atop a lofty pedestal.

A group of North Carolinians took the county to federal court in an effort to have a monument honoring the Confederacy and expressing gratitude to “faithful slaves” removed.

A black community organizing group called the Concerned Citizens of Tyrrell County has asserted that the racist rhetoric on display at the Tyrrell County Confederate Memorial is a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

A lawsuit was filed last week against Tyrrell County, stating that the county’s monument conveys the suggestion that the Black people enslaved in the county preferred their enslavement to freedom and that Tyrrell’s institutions see the Black people’s proper role as one of submission and obedience.

According to the lawsuit, a local former Confederate officer donated the monument that was constructed by the county in 1902. In “appreciation” of their “faithful slaves.” it commemorates the patriotic sons who died fighting for the Confederacy and features reliefs honoring them.

For many years, Concerned Citizens has spearheaded a movement to have the monument removed from the courthouse, arguing that it expresses a racially discriminatory message.

The lawsuit challenges a North Carolina statute passed in 2015 that forbade municipalities from removing Confederate monuments; however, the plaintiffs assert that this statute just covers monuments owned by the state and not by counties.

The suit asserts that during the past five years, local governments have removed over a dozen monuments commemorating the Confederacy. Some were also pulled down by force, such as the one that demonstrators at UNC-Chapel Hill toppled in 2018.

Earlier in his career, Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper backed efforts to remove comparable Confederate monuments from the state.

Nationwide, the subject has proven to be contentious. Despite strong opposition from Republican lawmakers, the Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery was finally removed in December.