It was standing room only during the Winston-Salem city
council room on Tuesday evening.

About a dozen community members — many associated with the “Get
Hate Out of Winston-Salem” movement which supports the removal of the downtown
Confederate statue — urged council members to take additional steps to promote
equity in the city.

The monument has been ordered
by both the city and the owner, to be removed by the Daughters of the
Confederacy by Jan. 31.

Aidan McCarthy, a student from Reagan High School, spoke
about the importance of the statue’s removal, but said there are other issues
that the city needs to address.

“When the statue is no longer standing, who will stand for
the residents of this town?” McCarthy asked. “To me and most people in this town,
the statue is just the tip of the iceberg.”

McCarthy and others referenced the increasing number of high-rent
apartments being built downtown and the number of ways in which black and brown
residents continue to struggle in society. One speaker half-jokingly suggested
breaking apart the statue and letting black artists use the remains to create
their own art.

Tina Trutanich, a local organizer, urged members to focus
their efforts on problems like food insecurity, poverty and providing better
transportation.

“You work for us,” Trutanich said. “We need to make sure we
get what we are paying our taxes for.”

Trutanich said she waited in freezing temperatures for a bus
that morning.

“Routes
have been cut; the buses are not reliable,” Trutanich said. “Transportation has not assisted the lives of lower
income people.”

Alexx Andersen, a graduate student at the Wake Forest
University School of Divinity who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, outlined their
personal experiences of growing up as a black person in the South.

They described how white supremacists burned crosses on their
family’s front lawn when they were a child in rural South Carolina. When that
didn’t drive their family away, they said the tormentors lynched their dad.

“We were living in an area where there weren’t a lot of
people that looked like me,” Andersen said.

In 2015, after moving to Charleston, Andersen said they
experienced hate and racism again. They had plans to go to Bible study one
evening at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church when they got a call.

“I found out that the church I loved so much,” Andersen said
as they struggled to get the words out. “People were killed.”

They said the Confederate statue reminds them of the
massacre in which a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at their church.

“I’m reminded that I’m a black person and my life doesn’t
matter,” they said.

While 11 of the 13 speakers advocated for the removal,
destruction or relocation of the Confederate monument, two speakers at the end
of the meeting supported keeping the statue where it is.

Howard Snow, who wore a gray Confederate soldier cap, said
he didn’t think the statue was racist.

“It’s for the soldiers that gave their lives for what they
believed in,” Snow said. “It’s my family; it’s my heritage.”

Snow also helped organize an “Heirs to the Confederacy
Prayer Service” at the base of Silent Sam in Chapel Hill on Dec. 16.

Wendy Hayslett, who said she was with the Virginia Task
Force III%, a conservative, Confederate-monument-supporting group, said she had
come from Hampton, Va., to advocate for the statue.

“I don’t celebrate slavery and hate,” said Hayslett, who
wore a gray shirt with the image of Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general, on
the back. “I’m not a Nazi; I’m a Southern American and I’m proud of that.”

None of the city council members nor the mayor commented on
the status of the statue during the meeting.

The city of Winston-Salem has given the United Daughters of
the Confederacy, which commissioned the statue in 1905, a deadline of Jan. 31
to remove it or face legal action. Mayor Allen Joines proposed to relocate the
monument to Salem Cemetery. The United Daughters responded in a Jan. 3 press
release expressing “dismay” and pledging to “do everything in our power to see
that it continues to remain.”

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