In a move that was disappointing but not particularly shocking to activists, the N.C. Historical Commission voted nearly unanimously Friday to postpone a decision on removing Confederate monuments from the state Capitol in downtown Raleigh.
The decision came in response to a petition sent by Governor Cooper's administration earlier this month to remove three Confederate monuments from the Capitol to the Bentonville Battlefield state historic site in Johnston County. Cooper proposed moving the monuments in the wake of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
That such a politically charged decision comes down to an eleven-member commission is not by accident. It's by design; specifically, a 2015 law passed by the General Assembly that prevents the state from removing "objects of remembrance," including Confederate monuments, from public property without the approval of the Historical Commission.
The Cooper administration is arguing that moving them to Bentonville would comply with the law. Unsurprisingly, Republican lawmakers contend that it would not.
Ultimately, the commission punted, voting 9–1 to postpone the decision until April to seek legal guidance and form a committee to study the issue. Commission member David Dennard (one of two black members) was the sole dissenter; when he cast his no vote, observers seated in the meeting snapped in approval. Like many other things in the state, this body is not apolitical. All commission members are appointed by the governor, and Cooper has appointed three at-large members so far.
A group of about two dozen protesters gathered outside the building. Few were pleased by the commission's decision.
"We just saw them tighten their grip around the neck of justice," said Jose Romero. "They're trying to keep choking us, but we're going to keep organizing, and this was just the tip of the iceberg."