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Removal OK’d of downtown Confederate monuments
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 22:56

From Staff Reports 

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on June 16 voted 4-3 in favor of a joint resolution — unanimously approved by Asheville City Council seven days earlier — to remove confederate monuments in downtown Asheville. 

The county vote was stricly along party lines, with Democrats Al Whitesides, Amanda Edwards, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Chairman Brownie Newman voting in favor of the removal. Republicans Anthony Penland, Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley voted against taking down the monuments.

“The resolution forces the immediate removal of two of the monuments and creates a task force to figure out what to do with the Vance Monument,” Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) reported afterward.

“These are public symbols that sit on public land and send a really clear message about what our values are as a community,” District 1 commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara said, according to News 13. 

Whitesides, the commission’s sole African-American, termed the decision the beginning of needed change. “I’ve had to watch these monuments from the time I was 15 years old. I’m glad to see that finally here now we are beginning to have this conversation,” Whitesides said, News 13 noted.

“I get that people are concerned by that and hurt by that, but I don’t think that the way this is written and I don’t think this is the answer,” Belcher said, according to News 13, which then quoted Pressley as saying, “Put this on the 2020 ballot in November and let the people, you know, voice their opinion,.”

Nineteen people voiced their concern against the resolution, while 549 voiced support for the resolution, the commissioners said, in noting that they heard a mix of opinions — taken via email and voicemail — in an hour of public comment before they voted. 

Among the comments were:

 “It just breaks my heart to think about tearing down the Vance Memorial. It’s always been a symbol of Pack Square,” one caller said.

“I’m calling in reference to the Vance Monument, and I would prefer that it not be taken down or changed because it is part of our history, and we can’t change our history,” another caller said.

“These monuments need to be torn down. The past needs to be remembered as it was as a shameful period of human subjugation,” yet another caller asserted.

“I think that this is something that is long overdue. My grandfather was a klan member. He had died by the time that I was born, but everybody described that as the worst mistake he ever made. And I was raised in a family where race was right there on the kitchen table,” another person said.

“The resolution said the Daughters of Confederacy have 90 days to remove two monuments: the memorial monument honoring the 60th regiment of North Carolina Confederate soldiers, which sits outside the Buncombe County courthouse, and the Robert E. Lee/Dixie Highway/Colonel John Connally marker, which is in Pack Square Park,” News 13 reported.

Meanwhile, the Asheville Citizen Times reported June 17 that “the resolution also outlines the formation of a 12-member task force to consider the Vance Monument’s future, with half of the members appointed by the county, and the other half by the city.

“The task force is to provide a report to the City Council and County Commission with a recommendation regarding the removal and/or repurposing of the Vance Monument within three months of all appointments,” the ACT noted.



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