NC Court Rules Leaders Don’t Have To Move Confederate Statue

An appeals court in North Carolina ruled this week in favor of Alamance County leaders who denied requests to move a Confederate statue that stands outside a courthouse.

The ruling, issued on Tuesday, March 19, rejected claims from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its fellow plaintiffs that local leaders should have complied and removed the statue. However, the North Carolina Court of Appeals determined that the county did not have the authority to remove the statue, per the Monument Protection Law in the state.

The court opinion stated that this legal precedent “has required the County to leave the Monument in its current place,” even in a scenario when local leaders “wanted” to remove it. In addition to upholding a previous ruling that the statue could remain in place, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request that an exception be made.

Under the law, a monument may be removed if it is deemed to threaten public safety due to “an unsafe or dangerous condition.” This risk must be determined by “a building inspector or similar official,” whose opinion would primarily constitute a reason to remove a statue.

The specific exception presented and rejected in this case was a county manager’s worry that protestors involved in a June 2020 demonstration outside the courthouse faced heightened safety risks. However, the court explained that the county manager does not qualify as a “similar official” in relation to a building inspector, therefore nullifying the attempt for an exception to the law.

Tuesday’s decision was unanimously agreed upon by three judges, whose vote upheld a trial court ruling from 2022 relating to the same statue.

Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, the act of tearing down Confederate statues and monuments was a frequent occurrence across the United States, including in the Tar Heel State.

Nearly four years after demonstrators vandalized these sites—including those located outside official buildings and on college campuses—entities that removed statues due to protests routinely say they are being held in storage but refuse to disclose precisely where or provide images of the monuments’ conditions.

In Alamance County, the statue at the center of the lawsuit includes a Confederate soldier, standing at more than 30 feet tall. The NAACP and other groups, who viewed the monument as a sign of white supremacy, sued the county in 2021 following denied requests to remove the statue.

The plaintiffs alleged that the county commissioners had undermined North Carolina’s constitution by allowing the monument to remain in its place outside the Alamance County Courthouse.

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