A Superior Court judge has put on hold Pasquotank’s plan to move the Confederate monument from the county courthouse to private property in Nixonton.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett issued a preliminary injunction this week halting the monument’s move in response to a lawsuit filed in July by the Col. William F. Martin Camp 1521 Sons of Confederate Veterans.
County Attorney Mike Cox said Friday morning that Tillett issued a preliminary injunction in the case following a hearing on Monday in Dare Superior Court.
“The court did enter a preliminary injunction for a period of 30 days and at this time we are waiting on the written order to see how it reads,” Cox said.
County Manager Sparty Hammett said the monument can’t be moved while the injunction is in effect.
“It was scheduled, this stops it,” Hammett said. “The county has been proactively trying to move the monument since July of 2020, well over a year. Now, when the move is finally imminent the court makes this extremely disappointing decision to stop it.”
Hammett said the “Camden County-based Sons of Confederate Veterans” has no ownership rights and no legal standing in the monument. He said their request for a preliminary injunction to stop the removal of the Confederate monument is “frivolous and lacks any legal substance.”
Hammett referenced a similar case in Chatham County where a request for preliminary injunction against moving a monument from public property was made by the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and it was denied.
“This request was denied even though they are the likely owners of that monument,” Hammett said. “The Sons of Confederate Veterans has no ownership rights and the facts of the case for Pasquotank County are far superior to the facts in the Chatham County case.”
The Board of Commissioners voted in July of 2020 to remove the monument and last month commissioners voted 5-2 to pay David White Crane Service of Franklin, Va. $50,000 to move the monument to private property owned by Warren Weidrick at 1371 Four Folks Road.
This past summer, the board voted to pay Superior Cranes $28,000 to move the monument but the company later raised its price to $75,000, citing concerns about the project after saying it received threatening phone calls. The county then sought a new company and settled on White Crane Service.
The Martin Camp is suing to stop the monument’s removal, claiming the county’s decision violates the state’s Monument Act.
The 2015 law passed by state lawmakers prohibits the removal of “objects of remembrance” like Confederate monuments from public property without state approval. The law included several exceptions, one allowing removal if the monument has become a “threat to public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.”
The county used the “public safety” exception in state law allowing its removal when it voted to remove the monument in July 2020.
In its lawsuit against Pasquotank, the Martin Camp contends the monument “poses no threat to public health or safety and it has been part of the courthouse campus for more than 100 years.” The monument was erected on the courthouse grounds by the then local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911.
The Martin Camp also says in its lawsuit that the Monuments Act states that if a monument is relocated it has to be to a site of “similar prominence, honor, visibility and availability” within the same jurisdiction.
Two messages left Friday for Martin Camp attorney H. Edwards Phillips of Franklin, Tennessee, were not returned.
The Martin Camp and the N.C. Division Sons of Confederate Veterans also filed motions last year in Pasquotank County seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the monument’s removal, asking that the monument’s removal first be settled by the North Carolina Historical Commission. The state division of Sons of Confederate Veterans is also a plaintiff in the suit against the county.
On Nov. 23, 2020, the Historical Commission, acting on advice from state Attorney General Josh Stein, declined to act on the matter, stating the two groups that sought the injunction lacked standing to seek it. The commission also ruled the Monument Protection Act of 2015 does not apply to the Confederate statue in Pasquotank because the courthouse is not state property.
The two groups filed an appeal of that decision in Superior Court. Tillett stayed the case in July until the state Supreme Court hears a case the N.C. Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy filed against the city of Winston-Salem. The UDC suit is asking for the return of a statue of a Confederate soldier that was removed from downtown Winston-Salem.
Also citing public-safety concerns, Winston-Salem had the monument removed on March 12, 2019.
A judge in Forsyth County Superior Court dismissed the UDC suit and the N.C. Court of Appeals later upheld that ruling on a 2-1 vote. The UDC has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.