BEAUFORT — County commissioners and members of the public came out strongly in support of preserving the Confederate soldiers’ monument sitting on the grounds of the county courthouse complex in Beaufort.
A group of demonstrators gathered near the statue around 6 p.m. Monday, many sporting Confederate flags and Trump 2020 campaign paraphernalia. Concurrently, a number of residents spoke in support of the monument during the public comment portion of the Carteret County Board of Commissioners’ meeting taking place nearby in the administration complex.
“Everybody who fought and died in the Civil War, whether for the Union or the Confederacy, was a hero,” said resident Jennifer Hudson of Newport, drawing applause from an overflow audience. “…This monument serves as a reminder of that brutal, bloody, brother-against-brother Civil War that literally tore this nation apart.”
An online Change.org petition circulating that asks the local board to remove the Confederate monument from the courthouse grounds has nearly 2,300 signatures as of Monday evening. It was created in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and calls to remove Confederate statues from public grounds after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minn., at the hands of police.
Several county commissioners said they’d received numerous calls and emails from residents on both sides of the issue leading up the meeting Monday evening, but only those in support of keeping the monument spoke during public comments.
“I was real proud and happy about the way that the people who came to the podium tonight to speak about the statute handled themselves,” Commissioner Ed Wheatly said. “As Commissioner (Robin) Comer was saying, I also received a whole lot of emails, a whole lot of Facebook messages and a lot of telephone calls, and I really did not know what to expect. I was expecting a little bit different from how this actually went on tonight.”
Commissioner Comer clarified that a vote on removing the Confederate statue was not included on the commissioners’ agenda and he doesn’t expect it to come up for a vote.
“It was mentioned tonight about taking a vote up here, if I had my way it’ll never be placed up here for a vote, because in my opinion … it was placed there, it was placed there for the right reasons by the right people and you won’t see Robin Comer’s name in favor of taking down a monument to the dead.”
Other commissioners also spoke in strong support of keeping the statue, saying they wouldn’t support any measure to remove it. Mr. Wheatly suggested investing in a granite wall and permanent fence around the monument to protect the structure.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.