With the city of Winston-Salem telling the United Daughters of the Confederacy that time’s up for the Confederate monument, antiracist activists gathered at the statue on Friday to say they’re holding the city to its word.
“Let’s be clear: The Confederate statue isn’t down until it’s down,” said Miranda Jones, an organizer with Hate Out of Winston. “This is a small victory secured for the people by the people. The people still have yet more to win. So we will remain vigilant and dogged in our quest to illuminate and dismantle racism in our schools, housing, our justice system, wealth gap, health disparity and wherever else it is found.”
On Thursday, a superior court judge turned down a request by the Daughters for a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal of the monument, which the city has declared a public nuisance and threat to “public safety.” Assistant City Manager Damon Dequenne told Triad City Beat he expected the city to remove the statue within two to 10 days of the Jan. 31 deadline.
Antiracists expressed disappointment with the notion that their peaceful protests have increased the threat to public safety surrounding the monument.
“There’s been some coverage of this protest that’s portrayed many of us that are here as maybe disturbing the peace or there’s some real danger when there’s protests against the statue, and so the city has tried to portray that as their reason for trying to keep the peace, that that’s the reason for removing the statue,” Will Cox said. Cox added that it was a shame that the city was only removing the statue because it was a threat to public safety considering that it represents 114 years of the “business as usual” of white supremacy, including political terror against black people and exploitation of black workers.
Another protester read a statement on behalf of Destiny Blackwell, who arrived later.
“While the city is happy to praise itself for the too-little-too-late stance on the statue (that still stands and has not date to be removed), their motives were made clear when they coordinated with racist paramilitary groups who hired armed security to attend our peaceful rally calling for the removal,” Blackwell said. “In the shadow of Charlottesville, the fear of white supremacist terror is as real as ever, and it was real in Winston on January 13th when this city put the protection of private property over the well-being of people.”
Lt. Brian Doby referred questions about the police department’s engagement with monument supporters to City Attorney Angela Carmon. Neither Carmon nor City Manager Lee Garrity responded to inquiries on the matter.
About 17 antiracists attended the rally. A smaller group of seven neo-Confederates and monument supporters gathered across the street. Early in the event, the neo-Confederates walked across the street and interrupted the antiracist rally.
“That is a US military veterans war memorial,” yelled Jenna Bernstein, a Jewish monument supporter who travels around the South speaking in defense of Confederate symbols.
After arguing that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Carter G. Woodson would oppose removing monuments, Bernstein grabbed an American flag and said, “This is America, a constitutional republic. United we stand, divided we fall.”
After retreating across the street, the monument supporters taunted antiracists by yelling, “Stinking communists,” and chanting, “Blue lives matter.”
Antiracists chanted in response: “Black lives matter.”
Howard Snow, a Yadkin County resident who is active with the neo-Confederate group Heirs to the Confederacy, said his great-great grandfather, James Snow, was born in Forsyth County and served in the Confederate armed forces. Snow said the Civil War was not fought over slavery, a view rejected by most historians. While acknowledging that Alfred Waddell — who gave the dedication speech for the Confederate monument in Winston-Salem — led a racial terror campaign in Wilmington, Snow argued that the monument isn’t racist. “One man gave the dedication speech; that doesn’t mean that’s what the statue is about,” he said, adding that Waddell was invited to do so “because he was a leader at the time.”
Snow said, “This monument has been here for 114 years and has only been vandalized twice, and instead of going after the vandals they’re going after the statue. That statue never came down off the pedestal and touched anybody.”
Heather Redding, an antiracist from Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action, spoke about her involvement in the student-led movement at UNC-Chapel Hill to remove Silent Sam.
“Now I’m honored to join you all in saying that the days of celebrating Confederate leaders and their white supremacy are coming to an end,” Redding said. “From Durham to Chapel Hill, now Winston-Salem and soon Raleigh we are dismantling racial supremacy one statue at a time, one lie at a time, one racist group at a time.”