After Saturday’s protests in Charlottesville, Va., sparked by the planned removal of a Confederate monument, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and President Donald Trump have expressed very different opinions about what should be done with the polarizing statues.
On Tuesday, Cooper released a statement on Medium that expressed his feelings on the Charlottesville protests — which turned violent when a man drove a car into a group of counterprotesters — and what he believes North Carolina should do with Confederate monuments.
“Our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums — not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds. And our history must tell the full story, including the subjugation of humans created in God’s image to provide the back-breaking labor that drove the South’s agrarian economy,” Cooper wrote, adding that these monuments should be placed in areas that give more context.
Coincidentally, on the same day, President Donald Trump talked to reporters about what he thinks should be done with Confederate monuments and what happens when they start to be removed. “I would say that’s up to a local town, community or the federal government, depending on where it is located,” Trump said.
“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop?” Trump said.
The president referenced that the two founding fathers were slave owners, adding, “Now, are we going to take down his statue? So, you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture…”
But there’s a catch
In 2015, North Carolina passed the “Historic Artifacts Management and Protections Act,” which preserved “any objects of remembrance,” from being removed from public land, which includes all Civil War monuments.
Cooper said in his statement that he is urging North Carolina Legislature to repeal the 2015 law and give control to the cities and counties to decide on removing the monuments, something former Gov. Pat McCrory said he was wary about when signing the bill into law, saying it oversteps local government.
“I remain committed to ensuring that our past, present and future state monuments tell the complete story of North Carolina,” McCrory said in the statement in 2015.
The likelihood of a repeal, as well as how long it would take, is unclear.
South Carolina passed the first heritage preservation act back in 2000. Since then, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee have also passed “heritage preservation” acts.