Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said Monday night that he has contacted the United Daughters of the Confederacy and is talking with the organization’s officials in Burlington about the status of the Confederate statue in downtown Winston-Salem.
“There are some strong feelings” about the statue, Joines said. “I would urge all of our citizens to give us the opportunity to work through this and find an amicable solution.”
City Manager Lee Garrity said that city officials have no legal authority regarding the statue, which stands at the old Forsyth County courthouse at the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets. The United Daughters of the Confederacy claims ownership of the statue.
Joines and Garrity answered a reporter’s questions about the statue after Monday’s city council meeting, where two local teachers had urged the council to work toward removing it.
During the council’s public-comment period, Annette Beatty, a teacher at Clemmons Elementary School, said that all statues that don’t support the first line of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address should be removed from public display. Lincoln declared that the United States is a new nation conceived in liberty, and that all men are created equal.
“Some feel the removal of Confederate statues from public display and public land would be the removal of history and would ultimately lead to a conscious denial of history,” Beatty said.
That argument is soothing to some people, but it’s also self-serving because it preserves and displays one perspective of history, she said. The statues represent “the vile and inhumane institution” of slavery, Beatty added.
“I could argue that the very institution of racism is self-serving,” Beatty said. “White privilege is self-serving.”
Beatty said there are no statues in Winston-Salem of Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Nat Turner, all of whom were black people fighting against slavery in the 19th century, or of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader and icon of the 20th century.
Miranda Jones, a teacher at North Forsyth High School, told the council that it should ask the United Daughters of the Confederacy to remove its statue. The statue doesn’t represent the black and Hispanic students in her classes, she said.
“It represents oppression,” Jones said.
The comments by Beatty and Jones followed a rally Sunday in which 75 people gathered Sunday across the street on the Confederate statue in downtown Winston-Salem for a prayer vigil that emphasized overcoming racism in the wake of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
On Aug. 12, the KKK, neo-Nazis and pro-Confederacy groups gathered in Charlottesville to protest that city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park. Counterprotests flooded that city, and several people on both sides fought reach other.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car plowed into counterprotests. James Alex Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio, and a Nazi sympathizer, has been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses in connection with Heyer’s death and the injuries to 19 other people.
The events have prompted a national debate about Confederate statues and led to their removal in some cities. In Winston-Salem, someone vandalized the Confederate statue Friday night, spraying black paint on at least two sides. Protesters toppled a Confederate statue last week in Durham, and several people were arrested and charged in that case. Gov. Roy Cooper has called for the removal of Confederate statues on public property in North Carolina.
In other business Monday, the city council voted 8-0 to change a city ordinance to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
In July, Cooper signed a law referred to as the “Brunch Bill,” which gave local governments the option to pass ordinances to allow the sale of alcohol two hours earlier on Sundays than what state law had previously allowed.
City residents will be able to buy alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m., beginning this Sunday, Council Member D.D. Adams said. “I know there are people who disagree with this,” Adams said. “But it will bring in additional tax revenue to the city.”
The Rev. Robert Hutchinson of Winston-Salem, the pastor at Unity United Methodist Church in Thomasville, told the council in its public comment period that he was opposed to the measure.
Allowing people to buy alcohol at resturants 10 a.m. on Sunday encroaches upon churches’ worship time and will lead to more drunken driving deaths and injuries on the roads and highways, Hutchinson said.
“My issue is public safety,” he said. “It (alcohol) kills people and leads to children and spouses being abused.”