On Sunday, preparations to remove the Confederate statue from its current location on the corner of the intersection of Liberty Street and Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem began as construction workers assessed the height and construction of the statue. According to the city, the workers took measurements of the statue to ensure that it will be removed safely once litigation regarding the statue’s current location concludes.
These actions follow recent developments in the ongoing legal battle between the city and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) regarding the removal of the statue.
The James B. Gordon chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the Confederate statue in 1905.
In a Jan. 30 letter to James A. Davis & Associates, the legal representation for the UDC, Winston-Salem City Attorney Angela Carmon denied the UDC’s request for a delay of action that would have prevented the city from taking further action regarding the statue for sixty days.
Prior to these recent developments, in December 2018, Carmon ordered the UDC to “remove and relocate” the statue to “a more secure location.” In a letter sent to the UDC in December, the city stated that the group must remove the statue from its current location before Jan. 31.
In response to the letter from the city, the UDC issued a statement on Jan. 3 vowing to fight for the preservation of the statue in its current location.
“We wish for the memorial to remain in its place … and will do everything in our power to see that it continues to remain,” said the statement.
Now that the Jan. 31 deadline has passed without action from the UDC to relocate the statue, the city has begun to move on with its plan to relocate the statue.
The city’s proposed new home for the statue is Salem Cemetery, where 36 Confederate soldiers are buried. Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines supports the relocation of the statue to this site and has offered to finance the movement of the statue to this location. Joines has also stated that any movement of the statue to the cemetery would be a “quiet and serene” event.
In her Jan. 30 letter to the lawyers for the UDC, Carmon cited concerns for public safety as the main reason for seeking a resolution to the controversy around the statue’s location.
“It is clear that the presence of the Confederate statue, in its current location, jeopardizes the preservation of said Confederate statue, and is prejudicial to public safety,” said Carmon.
The UDC responded to the city’s denial of the delay of action by requesting an injunction to prevent any further action toward relocating the statue. According to Carmon, a judicial hearing for this latest request will occur on March 25.
In an email written Monday, Carmon reiterated the city’s prioritization of public safety as the city takes further steps to remove the statue.
“For public safety reasons, the city, in cooperation with the landowner, plans to move forward with the removal of the statue,” said Carmon.
The city’s concern for public safety stems from past incidents of vandalism. In the week following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., the Confederate statue was first vandalized on Aug. 17, 2017. In this incident, someone spray-painted “shame” on the base of the statue. In December 2018, the statue was vandalized once again. This time, someone wrote “cowards and traitors” on the base of the statue.
After both incidents of vandalism, the city directed the Winston-Salem Police Department to temporarily patrol the area around the statue.
According to a Feb. 12 statement from Sara Powell, president of the North Carolina Division of the UDC, the city’s claim that keeping the statue in its current location would be dangerous is illegitimate.
“In the 114 years which the Confederate memorial has stood in Winston Salem, there have only been two recorded instances of graffiti vandalism with no arrests and just a couple of peaceful protests,” wrote Powell. “This does not make this monument a public nuisance. By this measure, most bridges and many buildings in the city should also be removed.”
Currently, the city has not set an official date for the removal and relocation of the statue.