As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Monday, January 15th, several groups in Gastonia, North Carolina are fighting tirelessly to remove a Confederate monument, which stands outside the Gaston County Courthouse.
Ironically this monument looks out on a street named to commentrate Dr. King’s legacy.
The fight to remove this monument has been going on since 2017.
In the beginning of August 2020, Gaston County Commissioners voted to give the monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), who would find a new location for it on private property. As part of this agreement, Gaston County was going to pay for its relocation.
Here we are in 2024 and the Confederate monument still stands proudly at the courthouse.
So why has this monument not been removed and relocated?
After the Gaston County Commissioners approved the removal and relocation of the monument, there were opposing interpretations of state law between Gaston County attorney and the attorney for the SCV.
Edward Phillips, the SCV attorney, told WCNC that the commissioner’s original plan for relocation of the monument broke a 2015 state law governing the removal of monuments. Yet, the county attorney Jonathan Sink disagreed with this interpretation.
Because of the opposing interpretations between attorneys, the County Commissioners voted to give more time to discuss what to do with the monument.
In December 2020, the Gaston County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Association for Black Veterans’ Gaston County chapter (NABVETS), and the Eta Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity filed a lawsuit against the Gaston County commissioners to put pressure on them to remove the monument.
The County commissioners tried to get this lawsuit dismissed in 2021, but that did not happen.
Since the lawsuit was never dismissed, it recently came up for summary judgment (meaning no jury trial was held) at the beginning of January 2024.
Judge Robert C. Ervin wrote in his decision, “The court leaves it to the exercise of the sound discretion of the county and its Board of Commissioners to decide what messages they wish to communicate either directly or implicitly to the plaintiffs, their citizenry, and the world.”
This basically means, it is up to Gaston County Commissioners to decide what to do with the monument.
So, let’s put pressure on the board of commissioners to get this monument removed!
If you would like to help out with this effort, this is what you can do.
- Reach out personally to the Gaston County Board of Commissioners or attend their monthly meeting. Their next meeting is on Tuesday, January 23rd at 6pm at Gaston County Courthouse.
- Reach out to Chris Thomason, who is the President of the Gaston County branch of the NAACP and see how you can assist the organization in getting this monument removed.