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Edenton to discuss monument, vigil to be held for victims

082017edentonmonument

The Confederate monument on South Broad Street -- and the state law preventing its removal -- will be the subject of a discussion by Edenton Town Council on Aug. 28.

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By Miles Layton

Sunday, August 20, 2017

EDENTON – Edenton Town Council will discuss next week both the Confederate monument on South Broad Street as well as the 2015 state law that prohibits its removal from that site.

Before then, however, a vigil will be held to remember the three people killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

Both council’s discussion on the monument and the vigil are in response to the events in Charlottesville, which involved violent clashes between white supremacists and self-proclaimed Nazis and counter-protesters during a “Unite the Right” rally against removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from a public park.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, a vehicle driven by an apparent white supremacy sympathizer rammed into a group of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer and seriously injuring many others. James Alex Fields, 20, of Ohio, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the incident.

The same day, two Virginia State Police officers who were monitoring the demonstrations — Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bate — were killed when their helicopter fell from the sky and burst into flames in a wooded residential area on the outskirts of the University of Virginia campus.

Savannah Sievers, president of the Democratic Women of Chowan County, said a vigil to remember Heyer, Cullen and Bate will be held at 4:30 p.m. on the green in front of the Colonial Courthouse. 

“The vigil is open to the entire community,” Sievers said. “While this is an event organized by Democratic Women, we have reached out to Republicans and all clergy in the hopes that everyone in the community will attend. This vigil is only being held to honor and remember the lives lost.”

Sievers said the event is designed to bring people together to heal.

“We can't stress strongly enough that this is not a political event,” she said. “There will be no reference to any issues at the vigil. We will only be celebrating the three lives lost in Charlottesville.”

Sievers said the event is designed to be inclusive and peaceful.

“This is exactly the way all communities can come together,” she said. “As Americans we were all shocked and saddened by the senseless loss of life in Charlottesville. This is a healing event for the town so people can express their grief and sympathy. We think events like this can be helpful to unify communities.”

As for council’s discussion of the town’s Confederate monument, that will take place at a special meeting Aug. 28.

“As you know, In 2015 the NC General Assembly adopted legislation which prohibits the removal, relocation, or alteration of any monument, memorial, or work of art on public property unless the North Carolina Historical Commission approves the action,” Town Manager Anne Marie Knighton said in a statement. “I have asked the town attorney to review the statute to make sure I am it interpreting correctly. If we are interpreting the law correctly, local governments such as the town of Edenton are prohibited from relocating or removing monuments, Confederate or otherwise, from public property without approval from the state. “

There has been a Confederate monument in downtown Edenton for more than a century. The monument originally stood in the lawn in front of the Colonial Courthouse on East King Street, but it was moved to its current location on South Broad Street in June 1961, according to various sources. Although just steps from the waterfront, the monument was placed with the soldier's back to the bay as he faced north.

According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's archives, the Bell Battery Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy organized a fundraising drive in the early 1900s to build the monument that cost $2,000 to build and features a 19-foot tall granite shaft topped off by a 7-foot tall bronze figure. 

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