Sunday, October 23, 2011

Struggle for Reidsville Monument Continues

State responds to HPAC's allegations
By: Danielle Battaglia
Published: October 23, 2011

People picketed outside of Reidsville City Hall on Wednesday and Thursday to let the city know they want the Reidsville Confederate Monument to go back in the intersection of Scales and Morehead streets.

Picketers held signs declaring they had no voice in the decision regarding what was to be done with the monument after the May 23 single-car accident which knocked over the monument, shattering it to pieces.

The picketers got off to a slow start Wednesday morning, but as the hours went on, more people gathered, despite the rain and cooler temperatures. The same was true Thursday, even with the better weather.

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, at least 12 Reidsville police officers gathered on the sidewalk outside of The Vault due to an argument, which broke out on the corner between a man and a woman.

The woman, Sandy Simmons, was picketing City Hall and the man took great offense to it.

“The gentleman came up and said we were racist and it was all about slavery,” Simmons said.

Simmons tried to explain she was standing there for her great-grandfather. After hearing stories of her great-grandfather and how he was forced to serve by the southern army but did not own slaves, Simmons became very interested in the history of the Confederacy.

A man and a woman were dragging the man off as the officers warned the man to calm down.

As the man was being pushed down the road, he continued yelling at the officers “This isn’t 1963.” The women were able to get him away from the scene, but he left with the warning, “I’m coming back with my black friends.”

City Manager Michael Pearce said he knows picketers outside City Hall can be unsettling to some, but he applauds the picketers for using their First Amendment rights and, he added, being able to do what HPAC is doing is what so many people fought hard for.

The city’s 30-day limit to respond to a letter from HPAC expired this past week. The letter claimed the state actually owns the road and by taking down the remnants of the monument, the city broke laws. The end of the letter suggested if the monument was not replaced, a lawsuit might be filed.

On Wednesday, HPAC spokesman Ira Tilley remained mum about what would happen next if the city didn’t respond to the letter.

“I can’t tell you when it’s going to be filed or if it’s going to be filed,” Tilley said of the lawsuit.

Tilley said members of HPAC have been negotiating with the state to step in, and HPAC has proven countless times the state owns the road.

Tilley said state officials agreed it is a state-owned road, but they don’t want to step on the toes of the city.

However, after speaking with several members of the Department of Transportation, Division Engineer for Rockingham County Mike Mills said due to a maintenance agreement, the city has absolute jurisdiction over the road, including what to do with the monument, and the state wouldn’t have any say in what happens with the monument. The maintenance agreement, according to Mills, gives the city the right to make such decisions.

City Manager Michael Pearce said he did respond to HPAC’s letter with his own letter, addressed to HPAC president Chuck Hoard.

Pearce said he and City Attorney William McLeod Jr. continue to look at HPAC’s allegations but stand by their prior belief that the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) owns the monument and, therefore, the UDC ultimately gets to make the decision over what happens with the monument.

In a press release issued by Tilley, he said city officials sent a letter to HPAC and said they would continue to look into the situation and will let HPAC know what they find in the future.