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City Council votes to permanently remove two Confederate statues from downtown Wilmington

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:41 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington’s City Council voted to permanently remove two Confederate statues from downtown public areas during an open session meeting Monday morning.

The statues, which were located at Third Street and Market Street, were put into storage in June 2020 in accordance with state law citing public safety concerns.

According to a news release from the city, Cape Fear 3, a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, will take possession of the statues.

“Over the past year, the Office of the City Attorney has researched the legal options for objects of remembrance, including the ownership of these two statues. During this process, Cape Fear 3, a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, approached the city and asserted a claim on the statues. In 1909 and 1922, Cape Fear 3 commissioned the statues and sought city permission to erect them on public property using funds that were either raised by the organization or left by an estate,” the news release states. “Based on a review of City records dating back more than a century and relevant law, the City Attorney’s office concurs that Cape Fear 3 has a superior ownership claim on both statues.

If the city does not own the monuments, then the state statute does not apply to them and they can be removed.

“In a letter to the city dated July 5, 2021, Cape Fear 3 asserts its right of possession over the statues and their pedestals and requests the city hold them in storage on an interim basis until Cape Fear 3 can make arrangements to take possession of them,” according to the city.

After reviewing the applicable law, councilman Kevin O’Grady said that he believes the city is just doing what it is obligated to do since the rightful owners of the monuments have asked for them back.

“We’re the coat check room, someone came in, they checked their coat with us – the statue – we held it until they came and asked for it back in which case, we have the obligation to give it back to them,” O’Grady said.

Although they were removed in June of last year, it took that long for the city to come to an agreement as to what to do with them.

“The City Attorney first presented the office’s research, along with the claim letter and a proposed settlement agreement to City Council during closed session. Immediately following closed session, council asked the City Attorney to present this information in open session prior to voting on the agreement. With the statues already in storage, the city has agreed to move the pedestals into storage until Cape Fear 3 takes possession of them.”

While public safety concerns were listed as a reason for the temporary and permanent removal of the monuments, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark does not believe that is the reason for the decision.

“Let’s all be clear about this, we’re not doing this because of traffic safety on Third Street or Market Street; thousands of cars have passed by these statues for as long as those roads have been four lanes. So that is bull – we’re taking these down because of mob rule,” he said.

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