NC Civil War monuments could become flashpoint
Posted August 16
Updated August 17
Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he wants Confederate memorials across the state removed from public locations, fearing they will become magnets for protests and flashpoints for violence similar to the weekend clash in Charlottesville, Va., that left one person dead and nearly two dozen injured.
"My first responsibility as governor is to protect North Carolinians and keep them safe," Cooper said in an online post. "The likelihood of protesters being injured or worse as they may try to topple any one of the hundreds of monuments in our state concerns me. And the potential for those same white supremacist elements we saw in Charlottesville to swarm the site, weapons in hand, in retaliation is a threat to public safety."
The comments came in the wake of a Monday night protest in Durham in which a Confederate statue outside the former county courthouse was pulled down. Four people now face criminal charges in the case.
On Tuesday, two Confederate monuments in Wilmington were spray painted. One had a white flag tied to it and a rope around it, so police said they believe someone planned to topple it.
Cooper's concerns aren't overblown, with organizers of the Charlottesville rally by white nationalists predicting more such events that will be larger and more violent.
"I'd say it's going to be really tough to top, but we're up to the challenge," Christopher Cantwell said in a Sunday night interview with HBO's Vice News from a Roanoke Rapids motel room. "I think a lot more people are going to die before we're done here, frankly."
WARNING: This video contains profanity.
Some North Carolinians seem to agree with Cantwell.
When a neo-Confederate group in Alamance County criticized Cooper's statements on Facebook, more than 100 people responded, including some with threatening language.
"He needs to become a casualty of the upcoming war," one commenter said, referring to Cooper.
Another commenter suggested, "Shoot 'em all."
A third posted photos of guns and ammunition with the comment, "Let's get this thing started. I'M READY."
The threats were deleted by a group administrator, who said the group focuses on Southern heritage, not hate, and the comments don't reflect those values.
The Governor's Office and the state Department of Public Safety wouldn't comment when asked if officials are looking into any threats against Cooper on social media or elsewhere.
Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks did confirm, however, that State Capitol Police have stepped up patrols on the Capitol grounds, where a Confederate monument is located.
"We are closely monitoring the events that have occurred in North Carolina and other states," Hooks said in a statement. "DPS will maintain a presence in public areas and will continue to be vigilant to help ensure order, with its primary mission being public safety."
Cooper said he has asked the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to figure out how Confederate monuments across North Carolina could be moved from outside public buildings to museums and historic sites. He also urged lawmakers to repeal a 2015 law that prohibits Confederate monuments to be moved or altered without legislative approval.
"Our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums – not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds," he said. "And our history must tell the full story, including the subjugation of humans created in God’s image to provide the back-breaking labor that drove the South’s agrarian economy."