UDC accuses city of manufacturing controversy to remove Confederate

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Assistant City Manager Damon Dequenne oversees the removal of the Confederate monument from downtown Winston-Salem on March 12. (photo by Jordan Green)

The United Daughters of the Confederacy wants a Forsyth County judge to order the restoration of the Confederate monument in downtown Winston-Salem.

In motions filed earlier this week, the United Daughters of the Confederacy North Carolina Division and James B. Gordon Chapter No. 211 accuse the city of manufacturing a political controversy over the monument to justify its removal. The UDC is also attempting to remove the city attorney as counsel in the case, while issuing subpoenas to at least two city officials and a leader of the Hate Out of Winston, an anti-monument group.

In a motion filed on March 20, the UDC claims that City Attorney “Angela Carmon is a necessary witness to the facts and circumstances giving rise to the manufactured controversy under which defendant city has used as justification to remove the Confederate monument despite the pendency of plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.

The city hired a contractor to remove the Confederate monument on March 13. The city said in a March 20 motion that the monument is being held in storage facility “while a site at Salem Cemetery is being prepared to receive the statue.”

The UDC motion seeking to disqualify Carmon goes on to say that “testimony sought from attorney Carmon relates to the development and collection of information to support defendant city’s strategy to identify plaintiff as the designated owner of the Confederate monument, failure to direct the investigation into the act of vandalism performed at the location of the Confederate monument, and the defendant city’s failure to direct law enforcement to disperse individuals gathered on the streets of Winston-Salem without a permit.”

The motion says that the UDC wants Carmon to identify “the party or parties she referenced in her statement who uttered threats of civil unrest or damage to the Confederate monument.” In a Dec. 31, 2018 letter to officers with the UDC, Carmon referenced graffiti found on the monument on Christmas day that said, “Cowards & Traitors,” which she said invoked “significant concern about the safety of the statue and the potential for confrontation, breaches of peace and other nuisance type conduct similar to that endured by other cities.”

Angela Carmon

The UDC also indicated that they want Carmon to give testimony about “the identification of her political and/or social associations, whether formally incorporated or not, as such organizations support the removal of the Confederate monument.”

The city filed a response opposing the motion to disqualify Carmon late on March 22. In an affidavit, Carmon said she has “no direct or personal knowledge of any matters related to plaintiffs’ lawsuit other than those I have learned during the course of my legal representation of the city. The matters of which I have direct and personal knowledge are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Carmon also said, “I did not make any decisions with respect to the removal or reestablishment of the Confederate statue at issue in plaintiffs’ lawsuit.”

Mayor Allen Joines and Assistant City Manager Damon Dequenne received subpoenas requesting personal and official “notes, messages, memoranda, text messages and emails, letter and other correspondence pertaining to the Confederate monument” from Jan. 1, 2012 through March 20, 2019. The city filed an objection to the subpoenas, arguing that the request is over-broad and that the proper mechanism is discovery, which allows more time for production of materials. The UDC also subpoenaed Forsyth County Commission Chair Dave Plyler, Commissioner Richard Linville and Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt. The county attorney replied that there were no documents responsive to the request except two citizen emails.

Miranda Jones, a leader with Hate Out of Winston Coalition, has also received a subpoena from the UDC with a command for documents that uses identical language to those issued to Joines and Dequenne. Jones’ subpoena also commands her to appear in court to testify on March 25. Jones declined to comment for this story on the advice of her lawyer. (Jones also found herself the target earlier this week of a smear piece published on a conservative website insinuating that she promotes anti-Semitism.)

In response to the UDC’s effort to restore the statue to its previous downtown location, the city argues that it will incur financial expense because of the necessity of increased police presence. Dequenne said in an affidavit that the police department “planned and executed a riot and emergency type of operation” in anticipation of a Jan. 13 protest that drew both supporters and opponents of the monument. The protest required 93 officers who put in a total of 465 hours, Dequenne said.

Dequenne’s affidavit also references pro-monument supporters illegally carrying firearms at the protest.

“The statue has become the focal point of extreme emotive and imprudent decision-making, as evidenced by the hiring and stationing of armed security personnel by statue supporters in advance of the protest event, despite ample media coverage indicating plans for a heavy police presence and the presence of supporters armed with lethal weapons at a protest event, contrary to state law, and opponents crossing the street towards the proponents of the statue, despite agreeing not to,” Dequenne said.

Dequenne, a former construction project manager who studied civil engineering, also said he was surprised to discover that nine sections of the monument were simply stacked on top of each other with no connecting dowels to provide stability.

“In my professional opinion, based upon my many years in construction, had someone managed to get a rope on the figure at the top, the statue could have been easily toppled by hand,” Dequenne said. “It could have been toppled, easily, by a vehicle by simply tying a rope to the large section in the center or ramming the monument at its base.”

Dequenne also said public comments during a Jan. 7 city council meeting “raised concerns about the potential that citizens might try to remove the statue in a manner similar to that in Durham, Chapel Hill, and that Winston-Salem might have an incident similar to that in Charlottesville.”

The statue was located on the northwest corner of the 50 West Fourth apartments, which was formerly the Old Forsyth Courthouse. Clachan Properties, based in Richmond, Va., purchased the historic courthouse from Forsyth County in 2012 and repurposed it for housing. The property owners are also strongly opposing the restoration of the statue.

Hugh Shytle, president of Clachan Properties, said restoration of the statue to its former location would constitute a “trespass.”

“Owner will be forced to support, or at least be perceived as supporting, the political speech of UDC by displaying the statue on its property,” Shytle said in an affidavit. “In other words, the relief requested by UDC foists the burden of its political speech on owner, regardless of owner’s right to choose not to engage in political speech if it so chooses.”

Shytle also indicated the ongoing controversy surrounding the monument has made it more difficult to market the property to tenants.

“The reputation of owner’s property will continue to be harmed, but more so, due to the continuing prominent media coverage, if the statue is placed back on owner’s property, hurting owner’s ability to maintain and attract tenants at the private residences,” he said.

Shytle also asked who would take responsibility for the statue.

“UDC’s request fails to address who should bear responsibility for injury or death to any persons, including occupants, tenants and invitees of the private residences, which would result if the statue is placed on owner’s property and the protests turn violent or result in the statue being toppled,” he said.

This story was updated on March 23 at 10:53 p.m. to include the city of Winston-Salem’s response to the motion filed by the UDC to disqualify City Attorney Angela Carmon. The city’s response was filed late on Friday, March 22.

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