owner of a repurposed historic courthouse in downtown Winston-Salem have asked
the United Daughters of the Confederacy to remove the Confederate monument that
sits on their property.
Va.-based owner of the Old Forsyth Courthouse, where the Confederate statue is
located in downtown Winston-Salem, has requested that the United Daughters of
the Confederacy remove the statue.
purchased the historic courthouse from Forsyth County in 2014 and converted it
In a letter to
representatives of the NC Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy
on Tuesday, Scott Horn, a lawyer representing the owner Winston Courthouse LLC,
wrote that “in order to protect the residents of the property, the owner cannot
allow the statue to remain on the property. Since the United Daughters have
asserted their ownership of the statue without challenge from the county, by
this letter the owner is formally requesting that the United Daughters make the
necessary arrangement to move the statue.”
According to the most
recent document on file with the NC Secretary of State, Winston Courthouse LLC
is controlled by Herbert R. Coleman III, the cofounder and CEO of
Richmond-based Clachan Properties. Clachan Properties handles marketing and
leasing for the 50 West Fourth apartments.
The city of
Winston-Salem has given the United Daughters of the Confederacy a deadline of
Jan. 31 to remove the statue or face legal action, while proposing 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.” Sara Neel Powell, the new president of the
NC Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy could not be reached for
response to the property owner’s request.
Mayor Allen Joines
said the city hasn’t received any additional communication from the Daughters
since Jan. 3.
The letter from Horn
on behalf of the owners echoes the city’s request that the United Daughters remove
the monument by Jan. 31.
The monument has
attracted dueling protests scheduled for Jan. 13. A group of residents
supporting removal of the statue is calling for people “to stand against hate
and bigotry.” The Facebook event for “Get Hate Out of Winston-Salem” currently
indicated on Wednesday that more than 100 people planned to attend. A
pro-monument group called Heirs to the Confederacy indicate they plan “to pray
and place flowers” at the Confederate monument in Winston-Salem despite a
request from the United Daughters to refrain from protesting.
The Heirs to the
Confederacy event is organized by Nancy Rushton, a South Carolina resident, and
Lance Spivey, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member who lives in Asheboro.
Rushton and Spivey were responsible for organizing a rally in support of the
Silent Sam monument at UNC-Chapel Hill last month that attracted Georgia
militia activist James Stachowiak, who has unabashedly advocated shooting women
and children associated with Black Lives Matter protests in the back, and who subsequently
called for “lone wolf” attacks against “antifa” on social media. After the
Silent Sam rally last month, Heirs to the Confederacy publicly disassociated itself
The upcoming Heirs to
the Confederacy event scheduled for Jan. 13 is described as a multi-stage affair
beginning at UNC-Chapel Hill from 9 a.m. to noon, and then moving to the
Confederate monument in Winston-Salem from 2 to 3 p.m. A contradictory note
appended to the Facebook event page indicates, “The Winston-Salem part of this
event has been canceled. Due to a request from United Daughters of the
Confederacy. As to not impair their fight to keep this monument in place. There
will be a prayer and flower laying at this monument 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.”
Writing on behalf of
the owners of the Old Forsyth Courthouse, which is now 50 West Fourth
apartments, Horn wrote, “The owner’s primary responsibility is to the residents
of the property who have the right to enjoy a quality living space without
being subjected to disturbances of any kind. Unfortunately, the recent
controversy, the press reports, and references to potential violence have
raised serious concerns for some of the residents.”
There had been some
confusion as to which entity actually controlled the statue. Horn wrote on
behalf of the apartment owner that the 2014 purchase agreement between the
owner and the county specifically excluded “public monuments outside the
building,” and that the owner agreed to grant the county “necessary easements
to allow the county continued access to the land and building to ‘maintain
and/or remove’ the monuments at the county’s expense.”
County Attorney Gordon
Watkins told City Beat that the county holds no objections to
the monument being removed.
“We don’t have a role
in it,” he said. “We don’t own the land under it…. It’s not our decision.”
Horn wrote to the
United Daughters of the Confederacy: “Notably, the owner has not granted any
easement to the county with respect to the statue. Therefore, the statue is not
located on public property and thus is not covered by NC Gen. Stat. § 100-2.1.
No one can access the statue, or enter upon the property for any purpose
without the owner’s permission.”
Public opinion among
Winston-Salem residents appears to tilt in favor of removing the statue,
although monument supporters from other parts of the state, including the
neo-Confederate group Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, or ACTBAC, have
expressed vocal dismay.
Mayor Joines allowed
10 speakers during public comment at the city council meeting on Monday, with a
preference given to residents, and nine out of 10 speakers spoke in favor of
removal. The one speaker who urged the city to protect the monument was Stephen
Triplett of High Point who quoted Proverbs 22:28 by saying, “Do not remove the
ancient landmark which your fathers have set.”
Among proponents for removal, Will Cox, a local radiologist,
reflected on the climate of racial terror that surrounded the erection of the
statue in 1905, noting that the man who gave the dedication speech had led a
massacre against the black population of Wilmington only seven years earlier —
the only successful coup d’etat in US history. Alfred Waddell, who gave the
dedication speech for the Winston-Salem Confederate monument, is remembered for
declaring in another speech: “We will never surrender to a ragged raffle of
negros, even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.”
Cox argued that racial terror invoked by Waddell speaks
loudly and clearly to the present moment.
“These right-wing white supremacists are on the march,” Cox
told Mayor Joines and members of city council. “Unfortunately, they have a
mouthpiece that’s heard far and wide. It’s very important that you all take a
stand. I’m very happy that you’ve already demanded that the statue be removed.
The statue needs to be out of the county, out of the city; it should not be
anywhere where it can be seen. It’s a symbol of terror and it scares people….
Unless we really do want a memorial to terror, that thing needs to be out of
Supporters of the Confederate monument, who
held a sidewalk rally in front of City Hall on Monday argued that the city’s
initiative on the statue was a ruse to distract from problems related to crime
and immigration. ACTBAC, which has been designated as a “hate group” by the
Southern Poverty Law Center and sent at least five members to Winston-Salem on
Monday posted on its Facebook page. “Winston-Salem has jumped on a
bandwagon of liberal, lawless, Democratic-run places in our country that
express unity, safe spaces, better education as long as it fits their agenda — their agenda,” the post said. “Not what
the majority of the people want, but what a 15-minutes-of-fame liberal mayor
wants. In previous history, Southerners refer to acts such as this as tyranny.”
The post goes on to say: “This was never about a flag, a
monument, or Southern symbols. This is about a bigger picture that many have
failed to see. They want to erase us completely. We, true Southern people, can
accept defeat, but giving up is never an option.”
Supporters of removal
also indicated that they care as much, or more, about present-day struggles as
“I’m elated that city council has now taken a firm stance on
this issue,” said Miranda Jones, a Winston-Salem native and local educator.
“I’m elated, but not encouraged. I’m not encouraged because too often my people
get rhetoric and no action. I’m not encouraged because I want the statue to
come down, but I want my people to at least have the opportunity to be able to
live and work jobs with a livable wage in downtown Winston or any other area of
the city that they choose.”
The statue has turned
out to be an ambiguous asset for Clachan Properties’ efforts to market upscale
apartments in the repurposed courthouse. The company website includes a photo
of the statue in a solicitation for renters of its spacious two- and
three-bedroom apartments equipped with hardwood and stained concrete floors and
granite countertops. In an August 2015 marketing video, a narrator touts the
apartments’ “historic charm infused with a modern, luxurious style of living.” Even
after the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., when a white
supremacist rallying around the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee,
killed Heather Heyer, Clachan Properties issued a marketing video showcasing
the Confederate monument in Winston-Salem.
The letter to the
United Daughters of the Confederacy asserts that “the owner has not and is not
taking any political position and is not being influenced by any political
motives.” But the letter goes on to say that the statue impedes residents’
ability “to enjoy a quality living space without being subjected to
disturbances of any kind.”
The letter closes by
saying, “If the United Daughters elect not to remove the statue as requested,
the owner will have no choice but to explore other available options, including
cooperating with the city on the proposed relocation of the statue to Salem
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