Local News

Federal government helps Fayetteville with 'racial crisis,' divided over historic Market House

Posted February 5, 2021 12:18 p.m. EST
Updated February 5, 2021 5:22 p.m. EST

— The United States Department of Justice is weighing in on the future of the Market House and the racial divide it has caused in Fayetteville.

The US DOJ has a special team that helps cities with racial crisis heal.

On Friday, an official from the Department of Justice met with city council to help start a conversation about racially charged issues – which have been under the surface in Fayetteville for some time, but were highlighted after the death of George Floyd.

The Market House has been part of Fayetteville for nearly 190 years. During that time, it's served many purposes: A market place, a town hall, a landmark and the logo for the city.

In recent years, it has received heavy backlash for another role it's played in the Fayetteville community: The buying and selling of enslaved people.  

In 2016 the city took the landmark out of its logo. Now, some members of the Fayetteville community would like to see further action taken against the building.

Last summer, the building was set on fire, and a group of protesters occupied it for about a week.

The city was on a powder keg of racial divide. There was looting at Cross Creek Mall and protest marches with heated exchanges between protesters and police.

Later, the city agreed to have a 'Black Lives Matter, End Racism Now' mural painted around the site – only to end up removing it in an untimely manner, just after the mob at the nation's Capitol and just before Black History Month. The decision stirred more anger.

This week, the city put the mural back in its place.

Mitch Colvin, the city's mayor, hopes the Department of Justice representative will help put the city on a path of healing.

"The Justice Department has a special division that brings all parties to the table. so theoretically you may have one extreme on one side and an extreme on the other side, and they help facilitate it," he said.

The representative should serve as a neutral party to aid the discussion between city council members on both sides of the issue.

Dion Lyons, the representative from the Department of Justice, has been working in communities like Louisville, Kentucky where Breonna Taylor was shot by police.

Colvin said Lyons is used to dealing with the aftermath created by racially charged events and has a model that works to bring people together.

However, not everyone is happy with the way the discussions are being held.

"I think that fact that people who should have been in the room, were not in the room – so we had a barrier," said Kathy Gregg, a community activist. 

Kathy Gregg is President of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Task Force. She was at one of the meetings with the DOJ and said it hasn't changed her opinion about what should happen to the Market House.

"It needs to be removed. It does not need to be relocated, re-purposed. It just needs to be completely removed," she said.

Colvin said the DOJ will need time to bring all players to the table so that the community can make a decision about the Market House that everyone can live with.

He said the city seems interested and would have a more diverse segment of the community in future meetings.

If the city decides to move forward using the team from the DOJ, it wouldn't cost taxpayers any money.

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