Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Legal Action in Reidsville, North Carolina

Activists say statue must be replaced

Thursday, September 22, 2011 (Updated 3:02 am)
By J. Brian Ewing

REIDSVILLE — A new group is threatening legal action against the city of Reidsville if a controversial Confederate monument isn’t returned to the city’s center.

A group calling itself the Historical Political Action Committee delivered a letter to Reidsville on Tuesday alleging that the state owns the monument and the land it sat on.

The century-old monument , which sat on a massive marble base in the traffic circle of Morehead and Scales streets, was damaged in May when it was hit by a van.

The city determined that the state association of the United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the statue. That group decided not to erect a replacement in the city center. However, the local chapter disagrees with its state leadership, according to members.

The statue has been a point of controversy in the city, acting as a reminder of slavery for some and a symbol of Southern pride for others. The state UDC president cited that controversy when announcing the decision not to replace the monument.

There has been discussion of erecting a replica in a city-owned cemetery that has a section for Confederate soldiers.

Citing articles in the local newspaper from 1910, when the monument was installed, the committee argues that the UDC gave the statue to the city but the state has owned it for decades because the traffic circle is part of the state road system.

The group gave the city 30 days to respond. Rodney Hord , committee president , said the city took possession of both the statue and its base after the wreck.

Hord said the letter was also delivered to the N.C. Department of Transportation and the N.C. Historical Commission. He took issue with the state UDC’s claim that the statue is damaged beyond repair.

He said the group wants to see a historic and misunderstood monument returned to its rightful place.

“It’s not a racist thing,” Hord said. “It’s to the dead soldiers of the Confederacy.”

City Manager Michael Pearce said the city attorney is reviewing the letter.

“They raised some new points that hadn’t been considered before,” Pearce said. “My initial reaction is to disagree with the public right-of-way versus land ownership claim.”

The group plans to hold a news conference downtown at 10 a.m. today .