In a post on Medium this afternoon
, Governor Cooper called for the removal of the roughly one hundred Confederate monuments in North Carolina:
“Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights,” he wrote. “But history is not on their side. We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.”
What happened in Charlottesville, the governor said, could have happened in any of the North Carolina cities with monuments honoring the Lost Cause.
“Charlottesville could have been Raleigh, or Asheboro, or any other city in North Carolina that is home to a Confederate monument,” Cooper wrote. “I don’t pretend to know what it’s like for a person of color to pass by one of these monuments and consider that those memorialized in stone and metal did not value my freedom or humanity. Unlike an African-American father, I’ll never have to explain to my daughters why there exists an exalted monument for those who wished to keep her and her ancestors in chains.”
Yesterday, after demonstrators tore down a statue atop a Confederate monument in downtown Durham, Cooper tweeted that there is a “better way” to go about it. In his post, he expanded on his criticism of leftist demonstrators taking matters into their own hands, saying he’s looking out for their safety.
“I understand the frustration of those fed up with the pace of change. But after protesters toppled a statue in Durham Monday night, I said there was a better way to remove these monuments,” he wrote. “My first responsibility as governor is to protect North Carolinians and keep them safe. 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.”
In his post, he laid out a three-pronged approach.
First, the North Carolina legislature must repeal a 2015 law that prevents removal or relocation of monuments. Cities, counties and the state must have the authority and opportunity to make these decisions.
Second, I’ve asked the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to determine the cost and logistics of removing Confederate monuments from state property as well as alternatives for their placement at museums or historical sites where they can be studied in context.
Third, the North Carolina legislature should defeat a bill that grants immunity from liability to motorists who strike protesters. That bill passed the state House and remains alive in the Senate. The Senate should kill it. Full stop. Those who attack protesters, weaponizing their vehicles like terrorists, should find no safe haven in our state.
It’s hard to imagine that the Senate passes HB 330
—the bill granting qualified civil immunity to people who strike protesters with their cars—with a veto-proof supermajority after what happened in Charlottesville. At the same time, if legislative leaders have any plans to revisit the law they passed in 2015 blocking local governments from removing Confederate monuments, they haven’t announced it.