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Panel to decide whether to move 3 NC Confederate monuments

August 15, 2018 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina committee tasked with deciding the fate of three prominent Confederate monuments now located at the State Capitol grounds will announce its plan next week.

State officials said in a news release Wednesday that the Confederate monuments study committee of the North Carolina Historical Commission will meet Aug. 22 in Raleigh. The full commission will meet immediately afterward to consider the committee’s recommendation on the monuments.

Late last year, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper asked the commission to move the monuments to the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site located 45 miles (72 kilometers) away in Four Oaks.

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The state attorney general’s office wrote in May that the commission can order that the monuments be moved, provided the move meets several criteria, including that relocation is necessary to preserve them. The commission also must find that the new site is of similar prominence, honor, visibility and availability, the letter said. It also may recommend that the monuments be reinterpreted, but they can’t be altered in that process.

The advice is based on a law that the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed in 2015.

The September 2017 request from Cooper’s administration said the monuments must be moved to ensure their preservation but didn’t say why they’re in danger. His request did follow two events: a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the toppling of a Confederate statue outside a Durham County government building by demonstrators

The committee said originally that it would announce its decision in April, but that didn’t happen. In May, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources said the committee was “being careful and deliberate” as it reviewed about 7,000 written public comments and considered the comments from a public hearing in March where about 60 people spoke.

In its news release, the commission said it also has received requests from private individuals to relocate the “Silent Sam” monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But it hasn’t received a petition from the university, the UNC system or the Board of Governors to move the statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier.

North Carolina’s flagship public university said last month that it’s spent nearly $400,000 protecting Silent Sam from vandals in the year since the violence in Charlottesville. Most recently, a protester threw a mixture of red ink and her blood on the statue.

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The commission said it may seek legal advice on whether individuals have legal standing to make such requests, but it won’t address the merits of the requests at next week’s meeting.

Each of three monuments on the Capitol grounds was erected decades after the end of the Civil War, as was Silent Sam: the Capitol Confederate Monument, dedicated in May 1895; the Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument, dedicated in June 1912; and the North Carolina Confederacy Monument, dedicated in June 1914. Silent Sam was erected in 1913.

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Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc