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Winston-Salem removes Confederate statue from old courthouse

Free Press wire reports | 3/15/2019, 6 a.m.
The city of Winston-Salem, N.C., removed a Confederate statue Tuesday from the grounds of an old courthouse, drawing applause from ...
Workers make final preparations before removing a statue of a Confederate soldier from its base in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday. The statue is to be placed in a historic cemetery. Skip Foreman/Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.

The city of Winston-Salem, N.C., removed a Confederate statue Tuesday from the grounds of an old courthouse, drawing applause from onlookers for the rare move in a state where such monuments are largely protected by law.

Construction crews in Winston-Salem spent more than an hour Tuesday morning attaching a harness and a cage-like metal frame to the statue of an anonymous soldier, then hoisted it from atop its pedestal with a large crane.

A small group of people watching clapped and cheered as the statue was taken down and placed on a flatbed truck. The column and base were then dismantled and removed piece by piece, with workers finishing up in the afternoon.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said the statue temporarily will be put in storage before it is eventually moved to historic Salem Cemetery. He said he didn’t have an estimate for the cost of the city-funded removal.

“We realize that there are very strong feelings on both sides of this issue, so what we’ve tried to do is devise a solution that recognizes both sides,” Mayor Joines said in an interview.

He described the cemetery as “a very dignified and appropriate location for the statue.”

Wearing a cap and jacket with Confederate emblems, Howard Snow watched the workers’ progress throughout the morning, occasionally snapping pictures with his cellphone from a sidewalk. He said the removal was a waste of taxpayer money and an overall “travesty.”

“I don’t see where it’s a nuisance or a bother to anybody,” said Mr. Snow, 62. “It’s been there 114 years and you’re going to tell me in one year all of a sudden it’s a problem? No, it’s not.”

But Chris Lutz, who blew on a vuvuzela horn as the statue came down, said he was pleased the city had made good on weeks of planning to relocate the statue. Protesters have decried the statue and other Confederate monuments as racist symbols.

“I’m excited that it’s down,” said Mr. Lutz, 27. “I thought it was going to be much longer, much more arduous.”

Winston-Salem had more leeway than most North Carolina cities because the old courthouse property had passed into private hands. A 2015 North Carolina law all but prohibits the permanent removal of Confederate statues from public land. More than 90 Confederate monuments stand in public places other than cemeteries around the state.

In January, a judge denied a request by the United Daughters of The Confederacy to prevent the removal of the Winston-Salem statue from the grounds of the building that now houses apartments.

The approximately 30-foot high monument includes a granite statue atop a base and column and was dedicated in 1905. It depicts an anonymous soldier in a Confederate uniform resting his rifle stock against the ground.

North Carolina has been at the forefront of the debate over what to do with Confederate monuments as one of three southern states with the most statues, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A tally shows Confederate monuments are located at contemporary or historic courthouses in about half of North Carolina’s counties.