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Gaston Co. sued over courthouse’s Confederate statue

David Donovan//November 13, 2020

Gaston Co. sued over courthouse’s Confederate statue

David Donovan//November 13, 2020

A coalition of racial justice groups is suing Gaston County and its board of commissioners to have a Confederate monument removed from the main entrance of the county’s courthouse, arguing that the monument’s presence violates the state’s constitution—a suit that the plaintiffs hope will set a precedent for removing other Confederate monuments near county courthouses across the state.

The suit, filed on Nov. 12 on behalf of the NAACP and other groups, alleges that the 35-foot tall monument, which was erected in 1912 in a ceremony that celebrated white supremacy, violates clause in the state’s constitution which provides that “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

The statute was relocated to its current location in front of the courthouse in 1998. The plaintiffs say that the current location “puts it in the path of all persons with business before the County’s Superior and District Courts, the Clerk of Superior Court, and the Register of Deeds” and continues to cause racialized pain today.

Many Confederate monuments across the state have been torn down or removed in recent years. Hampton Dellinger, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said he thought the suit could be a bellwether for the fate of the ones that still remain. Currently, there are about 40 monuments standing at or near county courthouses, and 150 symbols of the Confederacy housed on public property.

“No court of justice can be truly colorblind when it’s guarded by a monument to white supremacy. The goal of this suit is to unite the dozens of cities and towns across North Carolina where Confederate monuments still stand at courthouse entrances. They are divisive and costly symbols causing real pain and real problems. Elected officials have had more than enough time to end these controversies. Today, we are asking the courts to do so,” said Dellinger, who also represented plaintiffs in suits challenging Confederate monuments that formerly stood on the grounds of the state capitol and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The county has 30 days to respond to the suit.

David Donovan


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