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Raleigh joining Confederate statue fight
 
Published Tuesday, February 12, 2019
by Lori D.R. Wiggins, Special To The Tribune

RALEIGH – The fight to topple Confederate monuments landed on Raleigh’s capitol grounds moments after a diverse crowd gathered downtown for HKonJ to urge lawmakers to do the moral thing. The Crush Confederates at Our Capitol rally was organized by Smash Racism Raleigh, a coalition of anti-racists with support from Youth Fuse and the N.C. State University chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America.

At issue: three confederate monuments near the State Capitol Building. Built during Jim Crow, organizers note, the statues symbolize state legislators’ push “to maintain racial hierarchy in politics, economics and society” … and were built “likely as a show of power and intimidation.”

The rally crowd swelled intermittently to nearly 100 people, some of whom strolled by as the group moved between the 75-foot monument to Confederate soldiers, another to confederate soldier Henry Lawson Wyatt and still another erected in tribute to the women of the Confederacy.

And they chanted: “Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!” Nat Turner, John Brown, anti-racists run this town!”

Those who want the statues to remain contend they are historic symbols of heritage, not hate. But Smash Racism’s rallying cry is that the monuments symbolize racism and oppression, reaffirm white supremacy, hide historical facts that tell the true story of the Confederacy and spawn present-day acts of racism.

“We’re not here to erase history, we are here to correct it,” said John Luke Kurucz Gomez, an NCSU graduate student in education and a member of YDSA. The story widely told omits the Union Soldiers, for instance, and the story of many more, he said. “Monuments tell just one story,” Kurucz Gomez said. “But, in fact, there are 30 million stories in this country.”

Earlier this month, four state lawmakers filed a bill to give local governments power to move or remove Confederate monuments, contending a 2015 state law blocking that authority without legislative approval is outdated.

“If we can begin to recognize these not as symbols of history but as symbols of a false narrative, we can begin to better educate those who feel strongly that it is a true narrative,” said rally organizer Will Hitchcock, 19, an NCSU freshman YDSA member. “We will continue to protest until it’s all removed, by any means necessary, whether it’s legislative or otherwise.”

Since the Charleston, South Carolina church massacre in 2015, cities nationwide have been in turmoil over whether statues should stay or go. In August, protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill toppled “Silent Sam,” a statue unveiled in 1913 during a ceremony in which Civil War veteran Julian Carr boasted of “horse-whipping” a black woman for insulting a Southern lady.

As she announced her resignation last month, then UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt also authorized the complete removal of Silent Sam’s remains. “Tar Heels tore it down,” said UNC senior Annie Simpson, garnering applause from the crowd. “We at UNC see the work you’re doing here. We appreciate it.”

Later, Simpson, 21, said: “People from Durham and Raleigh showed up for us, and we want to show up for them,” adding, although victory doesn’t completely erase tensions, “It’s certainly better now that there isn’t a monument to white supremacy guarding the gate to our university.”

Wake Forest resident Stew Ravitz said he lost two teeth during the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, followed by 12 more from the damage. Even so, the 64-year-old said he’ll continue to “fight.”

“If you see anybody being abused for the color of their skin or any other reason, it’s against you, too,” Ravitz said. “You can’t ever let up. It doesn’t just disappear on its own, and it'll never be enough until all of this stuff disappears. All of it.”

Jon Williams’ presence was simple. “I have to be willing to do it for change, even if it’s just me,” he said.

  

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