Protesters rip down two confederate statues from Capitol monument

Cooper responds to questions by blaming legislature

Monument to the Confederate Dead, Raleigh
Monument to the Confederate Dead, Capitol Grounds, Raleigh N.C. Image credit: A.P. Dillon

RALEIGH — On Friday night in Raleigh, protesters surrounded a monument dedicated to dead Confederate soldiers and over the course of several hours pulled down two of the statues mounted on it. One of the statues was dragged through the streets of Raleigh by protesters towards the Wake County Courthouse and Detention Center.

The NC Confederate monument at the state Capitol grounds the morning after part of the statue was torn down by protesters. June 20, 2020 (Isabelle Lavalette / For the North State Journal)

The Confederate Monument stands 75-feet-tall and the two statues near the base which were ripped down represented the Confederate infantry and a Confederate cavalryman. Two 32 pounder naval cannons stand on each side of the monument and at the top of the column stands a statue of a Confederate artillery soldier holding a gun. The monument was dedicated on May 20, 1895.

Images of one of the statues hanging from the Hargett Street signpost were also posted to social media by Raleigh City Council Member Saige Martin, who tweeted “Raleigh you did the thing tonight.”  Martin also posted an IndyWeek article to his Facebook page about the statues being torn down with the remarks, “Overdue. A reminder that y’all will not sit around and wait. Proud of my city, always. Especially tonight.”

According to ABC 11, police did try to intervene during the first attempts to pull down the statues but the police apparently then left the site. At least one person, 28-year-old James Sebastian Storelli of Raleigh, was arrested by police and charged with first-degree trespassing enter/remain and with resisting a public officer.

An IndyWeek reporter tweeted a video of police inexplicably deserting the statue, which allowed protesters to move in and tear down the statues.

Other state officials were not applauding the night’s activities.

“According to media reports, state and local police were on the Capitol grounds and were managing the crowd for some time. Then they abruptly left. It seems clear that somebody ordered law enforcement to vacate. Who was it?” asked Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) in a press statement.

“I’m aware of only one person in this state who has final authority over state law enforcement. Did Gov. Cooper order the police to abandon the Capitol grounds? If not, who is in control of this state?” said Berger. “Leadership is not ceding the law to a mob. Leadership is not avoiding the politically challenging questions, hoping to hang on until Election Day.”

“North Carolinians should be shocked by the utter lawlessness that occurred in downtown Raleigh once again last night, this time on the State Capitol grounds,” said Lt. Governor Dan Forest in a statement.

Forest, a Republican in his second term, is challenging Roy Cooper for governor this fall.

“While Gov. Cooper shifted blame when our cities were looted and buildings were damaged, he has no excuses this time. Last night’s destruction occurred on state property, right next to his office. It is clear that Gov. Cooper is either incapable of upholding law and order, or worse, encouraging this behavior,” Forest said. “The essence of a free society is the rule of law. When our elected leaders turn a blind eye to chaos, destruction, and disorder, society begins to unravel.”

This morning, two other monuments were removed from the Capitol grounds.  One was the Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument which was dedicated in 1912. Wyatt hailed from Edgecombe County and is thought to the first Confederate Soldier killed in action. The second monument is one dedicated to the North Carolina Women of the Confederacy in 1914.

Earlier in the day and early evening hours, a group called NC Building Our Revolution Now (NC B.O.R.N.) led a protest from one end of Raleigh, starting at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts to the governor’s residence, the Executive Mansion in Raleigh. Once at the governor’s mansion, the crowd chanted and blocked traffic by sitting in the road. NC B.O.R.N was formed as a private Facebook group on June 5 by Caroline Ann Radcliff and Taari Coleman. The group currently has only five members.

According to police and media reports, at least two NC B.O.R.N. members had interactions with police. Raleigh Police indicated that one of the individuals, a female, had assaulted police.

“Officers arrested a juvenile female who assaulted a law enforcement officer as he tried to get a group to stop obstructing traffic. An accompanying adult female was detained and cited for resist, delay, obstruct; she was subsequently released,” tweeted the official Raleigh Police Department account.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement about the Confederate monuments being ripped down and did not condemn the actions by protesters. The governor instead blamed the legislature for passing a law to protect monuments and objects of remembrance that rest on public grounds.

Cooper’s full statement:

“I have ordered the Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds be moved to protect public safety. I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site. If the legislature had repealed their 2015 law that puts up legal roadblocks to removal we could have avoided the dangerous incidents of last night.

“Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way.”

The monuments being removed from the Capitol grounds include: the remainder of the North Carolina Confederate monument, the monument to the Women of the Confederacy, and the figure of Henry Lawson Wyatt.

In 2017, Governor Cooper called for Confederate monuments on State Capitol grounds to be relocated to museums or related historical sites where they can be viewed in context. Read the Governor’s Medium post on the monuments.

North Carolina law passed in 2015 after the Charleston Emanuel AME Church killings prevents removal or relocation of objects of remembrance that are on public property. Governor Cooper has called on the legislature to repeal that law, which it has not done. The law includes an exemption if the monument is determined to pose a threat to public safety.

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) also issued a statement condemning Cooper’s failure to both follow and uphold the law.

“Last night, Governor Cooper’s Administration ordered law enforcement to stand down while a lawless mob destroyed State property. Gov. Cooper used that failure to justify removing the statues unilaterally instead of following the process laid out in State law,” said Moore.

“Remarkably, Gov. Cooper’s actions come just one day after he blocked legislation providing a lifeline to struggling families across North Carolina,” Moore said. “Not only is Gov. Cooper is failing our small businesses, but he is failing to uphold his constitutional duty to execute the law.”

About A.P. Dillon 244 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_