Following the orders of Governor Roy Cooper, work crews on Saturday and Sunday removed three Confederate monuments outside the state capitol in Raleigh. This came after protesters toppled two nearby statues Friday night.
Newsoutlets reported Saturday that crews were removing one statue dedicated to the women of the Confederacy, and another placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy honoring Henry Wyatt, who is believed to have been the first North Carolinian killed in battle in the Civil War. The Wyatt monument was dedicated in 1912 and the women’s monument had been in-place since 1914, according to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. By Saturday afternoon, both monuments were gone.
Around 7:45 a.m. Sunday morning, according to multiple news reports, crews began dismantling and removing the remainder of a 75-foot tall obelisk, which held the two Confederate statues until they were pulled down Friday night. A crowd of about 100 people gathered on Hillsborough Street to watch the removal of the monument, which had been there since 1895.
“Finally,” Shana Tucker told the News & Observer as the obelisk was being removed. “This is a big deal, and it seems like an authentic gesture. I’m proud of my city today.”
— Jason deBruyn (@jasondebruyn) June 21, 2020
It was initially not clear who ordered the removals of the monuments, but Cooper claimed responsibility in a statement released Saturday afternoon.
“I have ordered the Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds be moved to protect public safety,” Cooper said. “I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site. If the legislature had repealed their 2015 law that puts up legal roadblocks to removal, we could have avoided the dangerous incidents of (Friday) night.
"Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way.”
Statues coming down en masse today at the capitol grounds https://t.co/t6TEOv00vj
— Jason deBruyn (@jasondebruyn) June 20, 2020
On Friday night, protesters pulled down two statues of two Confederate soldiers that were part of a larger obelisk. Earlier in the evening police had thwarted a previous attempt to topple the statues. But after the officers cleared the area, protesters mounted the obelisk and were able to take down the statues.
The statues were dragged down the street. One was strung up by its neck from a traffic pole at the corner of Hargett and Salisbury streets, and the other was dragged in front of the Wake County courthouse.
On Saturday, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest issued a statement condemning the protesters' actions and blaming Cooper, a Democrat.
"North Carolinians should be shocked by the utter lawlessness that occurred in downtown Raleigh once again last night, this time on the State Capitol grounds. While Gov. Cooper shifted blame when our cities were looted and buildings were damaged, he has no excuses this time. Last night's destruction occurred on state property, right next to his office. It is clear that Gov. Cooper is either incapable of upholding law and order, or worse, encouraging this behavior," Forest said.
Cooper's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment to Forest’s claims.
Additionally, North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said in a statement Saturday morning that, “it seems clear that somebody ordered law enforcement to vacate” Friday night’s demonstrations, and questioned if Cooper was responsible for doing so.
“Leadership is not ceding the law to a mob,” Berger said. “Leadership is not avoiding the politically challenging questions, hoping to hang on until Election Day.”
Back in 2017, Cooper called for Confederate monuments on the state’s capitol grounds to be relocated to museums or related historical sites “where they can be studied in context.”
There are three other Confederate monuments in Raleigh at the Oakwood Cemetery. One is a memorial arch, one is a monument for Confederate soldiers and another is a memorial for Confederate soldiers specifically killed in the Gettysburg campaign. That monument, dedicated in 1997, claims that North Carolinians accounted for about “one-third” of the total Confederate soldiers killed at Gettysburg.
Numerous Confederate statues have been vandalized or torn down across the South in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer jammed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.