Raleigh, N.C. — The Senate is unlikely to repeal a state law protecting Confederate monuments, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Thursday in a lengthy response to Gov. Roy Cooper's call Tuesday for monument removal.
Berger, R-Rockingham, wrote on Facebook that he doesn't believe "an impulsive decision to pull down every Confederate monument in North Carolina is wise" and that Senate members "would be hesitant" to undo a 2015 law that forbids local governments and others from removing war monuments.
He also chided Cooper for "reactionary and divisive statements" and said he waited several days to comment on events in Charlottesville, Va., and Durham because he wanted to reflect on "the complex issues driving each of these events."
"In my opinion, rewriting history is a fool’s errand, and those trying to rewrite history unfortunately are likely taking a first step toward repeating it," Berger wrote. "Two years ago, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that tried to reduce the politics in making these decisions. I believe many current members of the Senate would be hesitant to begin erasing our state and country’s history by replacing that process with a unilateral removal of all monuments with no public discourse."
Cooper said Tuesday he hoped to see the law repealed, giving cities and counties the option of removal. Cooper also said he's asked the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to study the cost and logistics of removing Confederate monuments from state property, potentially moving them to museums or historical sites in the aftermath of last weekend's white supremacist rally and vehicle attack in Charlottesville.
Cooper's statement also called on the General Assembly to defeat pending legislation that he said grants immunity to motorists who strike protesters. That bill, which is sitting in committee in the Senate, applies only to drivers "exercising due care" who injure a protestor blocking traffic without a permit. The bill does not excuse willful or wanton conduct, and Cooper's description earned him a "mostly false" rating this week from PolitiFact North Carolina.
Berger chided Cooper on this issue, said "the white supremacy movement has no place in America" and described a crowd's destruction of a Confederate statue in Durham on Monday as a discouraging example of rioting and vandalism. He quoted Mark Heyer, whose daughter was killed in Charlottesville, saying, "people need to forgive each other."
"I don't have a lot of answers about what we can do to heal the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country," Berger wrote. "But I know it won't happen with angry mobs. It won't happen with opportunistic politicians trying to drive a wedge further between us. It will require our leaders to show some humility and compassion as we try to chart a path forward."