Earlier today (Sunday, June 21, 2020 I saw this message posted on social media.
The memo for the Alamance County Board of Commissioners by apparently the county manager looks real, it reads like an official document. I agree with what Bryan Hagood recommends to the board regarding the Confederate monument in downtown Graham that is inappropriately placed at the county’s Historic Courthouse, where justice for all is supposed to be the message to each and every county resident.
But on social media, who knows what’s real anymore? So I messaged a county commissioner by email.
“I saw something on social media about Bryan Hagood sending the board a recommendation to move the Confederate monument in Graham to a secure location and then finding it a home later. Is that accurate?”
And Tim Sutton responded with “Yes, do you want the email?”
I told him yes, but didn’t hear back immediately. I also wanted to ask him if he would support something like this, especially now when statues and other monuments are coming down around the nation. Confederate monuments fell in Raleigh Friday night at the hands of protesters and Saturday morning at the hands of city workers. Sutton and other members of the current board have not only been reluctant to move the Confederate monument in Graham, they have been vocal in their support of keeping it exactly where it is. Controversy over the monument in Court Square has been persistent over the past two decades — perhaps longer. It was placed there in 1914 — more than 50 years after the Civil War ended and deeply into the tragic and maddening Jim Crow era.
Black citizens of Alamance County have long criticized the statue as a symbol of hatred and their enslavement. That it stands at a courthouse is clearly wrong. The existence of it at a government facility is at the core of systemic racism. It generates anxiety, fear and discontent for residents of all races. And it casts our community as one that is unenlightened. It sends a terrible message to visitors to the county seat, to corporations looking to bring business to this area or families looking for a new home. It should have been moved years ago — decades ago.
Now the Confederate statue is a community danger and an unnecessary expense. On three or four nights over the past few weeks the city of Graham has initiated a curfew ostensibly to keep protesters and counter-protesters away from the courthouse, away from the monument and sadly away from businesses that could use the customers. Graham police and Alamance County Sheriff’s Department officers have been diverted from other duties to protect the monument from being vandalized or removed while also quelling hostility between anti-racism residents and pro-confederate residents, many of whom are affiliated with ACTBAC (Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County). a neo-Confederate often in the middle of intense protests. Law enforcement officers with rifles have been stationed on rooftops. what a great message for visitors.
Tense situations on Saturday night led Hagood to make this recommendation. After the Raleigh monuments were dismantled, word spread on social media that the statue in Graham might be next. Two groups of protesters were in downtown, some shouting ensued. Pushing and shoving led to two men being arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and assault on a female. Two Elon University professors — Tony Crider and Megan Squire — were the targets because they were taking photos and shooting video. They were unharmed but shaken by the disturbance. They frequently attend organized protests. Crider documents them with photos.
Sheriff Terry Johnson was able to calm the situation and the men were taken into custody by Graham Police. But the atmosphere in Graham was toxic. And too many people were carrying sidearms. It was a highly combustible situation that could have easily ended in tragedy.
Now is the time for commissioners to show true leadership for the vast majority of people in the county and do the right thing, finally. The statue can find a new home in a museum or memorial park. But it was never, ever appropriate to place it at a public facility for government operations and where all taxpaying citizens go. And a courthouse is the least appropriate of all. Anyone who enters a courthouse should expect equal application of justice. A Confederate monument is a symbol of centuries of injustice for black Americans. It’s wrong on every level. And now it’s a hazard to public safety and commerce in Graham.
Commissioners, move the statue and remove a problem that is only getting worse.