A county in North Carolina removed a Confederate statue from a historic courthouse early Wednesday and joined the few places in the state where such monuments have fallen in recent years despite being protected by law. A subdued crowd of Several dozen people watched a soldier's statue being knocked down overnight in front of Chatham's historic courthouse, where it had stood since 1
The move is months after Winston Salem officials removed a Confederate statue from the land that had been handed over to private hands. The demonstrators have also demolished two such monuments in recent years, including one in a historic courthouse in Durham and one on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Since the 2015 Law on State Historical Monuments, which limits the removal of public monuments, officials in North Carolina have rarely abolished more Confederate statues.
District officials, however, argued in court that the memorial was private property of the United Daughters of the Confederation, and a judge who heard the group's request declined to block the removal.
The crew closed two highways crossing the courthouse in a roundabout as they removed the statue that stood in front of the courthouse entrance doors.
A memorial catalog from the University of North Carolina states that the statue depicts an anonymous soldier holding a rifle with his butt resting on the ground. It was stamped copper, bronze on a granite base.
According to a press release from the county, the statue and pedestal were carefully disassembled and moved to a safe location until the United Confederation's Daughters submitted a plan for further action.
Over the past few weeks, demonstrators gathered for and against the procession around the statue, resulting in brawls and some arrests.
"The past months have been a painful time for Chatham County. We have experienced strong emotions, divisions and even violence that has affected residents, businesses and the general feeling of our community, "said Chatham County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Dasher in a statement. "What is clear now is that the vast majority of our inhabitants are moving forward eagerly."
North Carolina was at the center of the debate over what to do with Confederate monuments as one of the three southern states with the most statues. according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
More than 90 Confederate monuments are in public places other than cemeteries around the state. A governmental record shows that Confederate monuments in contemporary or historic courthouses are located in about half of the state's districts.
Spectators to the Pittsboro parade on Wednesday had mixed opinions.
A proponent of the monument, Robert Butler, described his removal as "heartbreaking" for WRAL TV.
Sandra Day of Moncure, who is black, told the News & Observer that it supports its removal. She said she had got out of bed and put on a heavy coat to go to Pittsboro to see the statue fall.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be here," she said. "I wanted to see it myself."