Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) on Thursday called on Gov. Roy Cooper to withdraw his request to the N.C. Historical Commission to move three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds – a request Berger said is inconsistent with the law, not among the state’s most pressing needs and little more than political theater.
The text of the letter is below:
September 21, 2017
The Honorable Roy A. Cooper
Governor of North Carolina
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699
Dear Gov. Cooper:
I am following up on our phone conversation yesterday regarding your request for the North Carolina Historical Commission to move three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds to another site in Johnston County. As I mentioned, there are a number of problems with your proposal.
As I explained last month, I do not think an impulsive decision to pull down every Confederate monument in North Carolina is wise, that attempting to rewrite history is a fool’s errand, and those trying to rewrite history unfortunately are likely taking a first step toward repeating it.
I am curious why you want to move a monument to regular North Carolinians who died during the Civil War (most of whom did not own slaves), a monument of a grandmother and child erected to honor the hardships and sacrifices of North Carolina women during the Civil War, and a monument to an unlucky 19-year-old carpenter’s apprentice from Tarboro who was the first North Carolinian killed in the Civil War – but want to keep the following statues of members of your own political party on State Capitol grounds:
- Democrat Governor Charles Aycock, an avowed white supremacist who, with the backing of the News & Observer, Red Shirts and Ku Klux Klan, helped lead a bloody coup overthrowing the North Carolina governing coalition of Republicans, African-Americans and poor whites.
- Democrat Governor Zebulon Vance, a Confederate colonel from a family that owned slaves who a historian describes as “the leader of a political party that destroyed the promise of Reconstruction and imposed segregation upon North Carolina.”
- Democrat President Andrew Jackson who forcibly removed North Carolina Native Americans from their tribal lands and sent them on the deadly “Trail of Tears.”
This selective outrage is one of the reasons your push to keep monuments in the headlines seems to be more political theater than a principled stand. It smacks of insincerity.
This is unfortunate, because frankly, with natural disasters threatening the East Coast, the people of Southeastern North Carolina fearful about the safety of their drinking water, and opportunities for major job recruitment, I am disturbed that sowing political discord is your primary focus. It's just this kind of divisiveness that could drive away potential employers, and further erode the public's trust in our respective institutions at a time when we should be cooperating to solve these significant challenges.
With that said, the North Carolina Historical Commission does not even have the authority to grant your request, and it would likely lose in court if and when North Carolinians sued over the removal of the monuments.
Relevant portions of North Carolina Law (Session Law 2015-170) state:
- An object of remembrance located on public property may not be permanently removed and may only be relocated, whether temporarily or permanently, under the circumstances listed within Section 3.(c) subsection (b) of this law:
- The circumstances under which an object of remembrance may be relocated are either of the following: (1) When appropriate measures are required by the State or a political subdivision of the State to preserve the object. (2) When necessary for construction, renovation, or reconfiguration of buildings, open spaces, parking, or transportation projects.
- An object of remembrance that is permanently relocated shall be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access that are within the boundaries of the jurisdiction from which it was relocated.
- An object of remembrance may not be relocated to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such a location.
Since August, you have told the press, “"I don't believe that they should be in a place of honor like our state Capitol," and “our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums — not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds.”
By your own words, the North Carolina Historical Commission cannot legally grant your request. So please reconsider your priorities, Governor, and withdraw your request.
SEN. PHIL BERGER
-- Copy of Letter --