GASTON COUNTY, N.C. -- On Monday night, the Gaston County Board Commissioners voted to relocate the Gaston County Confederate Heroes Monument currently outside the courthouse.
The resolution to gift the statue to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Charles Q. Petty Camp and relocate the statue passed 6 to 1.
“I think this compromise is best for our city based off of the circumstances that we have. I think it’s best for those who want it moved. I think it’s best for those who want to preserve our heritage,” Chairman Tracy Philbeck says.
This decision comes after protests and people on both sides speaking on the issue during council meetings in recent months.
On June 23, the commissioners approved creating a council of understanding to give a recommendation to the commissioners about the future of the statue. On July 13, they voted to 7 to 5 to relocate the statue to an alternative location.
Last week, the majority of the board directed the county attorney to see if a local bill could be put forth in the General Assembly for residents to vote on the matter. However, the county heard that couldn’t happen.
Board chairman Tracy Philbeck and commissioner Allen Fraley co-sponsored the resolution approved Monday that would allow for the relocation of the 1912 monument to private property. The resolution states the monument should be used as a war memorial and educational tool.
On Monday, the majority of the speakers were in favor of relocating the statue.
“When you come to a place where you are supposed to get justice and you see something that is a sign of oppression, then we are already losing that battle,” Adrienne Williams says.
Gaston County Freedom Fighters co-founder Rashaan Stephens says as an African-American man, the statue intimidates him.
“If this monument is moved, it will be a big step for my people for change and unity in the community,” Stephens says.
Rev. Richard Boyce, speaking on behalf of the Gaston Citizen Clergy Coalition, says clergy of different faiths and races were in favor of removing the statue to start change.
“That’s the first step. We’ve got work to do. It’s become obvious. This county has a constructive history of race relations but we got to move it forward,” Boyce says.
Some of the speakers and commissioners Jack Brown and Chad Brown supported an initial motion to keep the statue in its current location.
“I believe that war memorials honoring soldiers who lost their lives in battle should stay exactly where it is. We have a culture today where people are trying to change history and remove some of the landmarks that our fore-fathers have placed upon us,” Chad Brown says.
Ron Withers also wanted to keep the statue in its place.
“I encourage you to honor its place in U.S. history, with all of its success and failures, by keeping the monument where it is now as a reminder of its place in U.S. history,” Withers says.
Bill Starnes, a longtime member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says the war was not about slavery.
“If the monument hurts your feelings, if you feel it oppresses you, get off your tail, go learn the real history and the monument won’t bother you anymore,” Starnes says.
The county set aside $200,000 for the relocation of the monument.
The group will be given a period of six months to find a location to move the monument.