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Debate over Statesville Confederate statue heats up as some argue for keeping it; dueling petitions ongoing

Debate over Statesville Confederate statue heats up as some argue for keeping it; dueling petitions ongoing

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On Tuesday, four speakers publicly requested the Iredell County commissioners remove the Confederate monument in front of the Iredell County Government Center. Discourse has continued online and elsewhere about the issue which was addressed during the public comment section of the twice-monthly meeting.

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While no one against removing the monument spoke Tuesday, several county residents have been vocal online, arguing to keep the monument where it is.

As of Friday, a poll the Record & Landmark posted online found 54.9% of people wanted to keep the monument where it was while 40.3% wanted to remove it entirely and 4.8% wanted to relocate it.

However, online petitions both for and against moving the monument have been created on change.org. As of Saturday, 1,993 people have signed the petition to remove the monument while only 655 people have signed the one to leave the monument where it is.

Michael Oaks called the Record & Landmark Thursday after reading about the commissioners’ meeting.

“Is this going to solve the problem?” he asked of potentially moving the monument.

Oaks said if monuments commemorating Confederate soldiers were removed, he thought monuments commemorating civil rights activists should be removed as well. If a statue is so offense, no one should be honored, he said.

The statue is inanimate. Oaks said he understood people are using Confederate monuments as an issue to bring about other change, but he didn’t think it was going to work. The issue of what should be done with Confederate monuments is a divisive one, and removing Confederate statues won’t fix any of the underlying problems communities of color face, he said.

Addressing the argument that there are no statues commemorating the British forces during the American Revolution, Oaks said after the war was won, no one was living in America who wanted to honor the memory of British soldiers. In the American South, there are people who can name ancestors who fought and died when their state called them to.

“The statue belongs to people who put it there 100 years ago,” Oaks said.

Rachel Anders, the woman who created the petition to keep the monument where it is, can name three Confederate soldiers in her lineage. She said the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument as a memorial to honor the sacrifices of the Confederate dead.

She doesn’t support relocating the statue because she thinks people simply want to move it and forget about it. However, she has considered potential sites, including Fourth Creek Burial Ground.

As a lover of history, Anders said she thinks the statue should be preserved. Remembering ancestors who fought for the Confederacy is not the same as condoning slavery or ignoring the racial injustice of the present, she says.

“I completely understand that there is racial injustice in the world. It is not a new subject, however, the removal of the monument only comes up at emotional times such as current protests,” Anders said. “Right now we are in a pandemic, we have had the death of several African American men, people are out of work, they are struggling, I really don’t believe it’s a good time to discuss removing the monument when emotions are running high.”

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