Four accused of vandalizing monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Asheville

Four Asheville residents are accused of vandalizing a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the heart of the city’s downtown on Friday.

Police made the arrests after responding to a report of vandalism at the 65-foot Vance Monument on Pack Square. The granite obelisk was built in 1896 to memorialize Zebulon Vance, a Buncombe County native who was North Carolina’s governor during most of the Civil War.

A group of protesters was gathering around the Vance Monument when officers arrived at 7:40 a.m., the police department said on Facebook and Twitter, and several protesters were trying to vandalize a smaller monument.

The smaller monument is a rough-hewn granite block with a plaque commemorating Lee and the Dixie Highway on its western face and a smaller plaque honoring Confederate Col. John K. Connally on the eastern side, facing the Vance Monument, the Asheville Citizen Times reported.

Police saw people trying to remove the plaque and arrested them, police spokeswoman Christina Hallings told the newspaper. Arrested were Nicole Townsend, 27; Amy Cantrell, 45; Hillary Brown, 30; and Adrienne Sigmon, 34. Each was charged with damage to real property.

The vandalism was the latest to Confederate monuments across North Carolina and other states after last weekend’s deadly confrontation between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

By Sunday, a Confederate memorial in Cornelius was spray painted with a blue X over the words “Our Confederate Soldiers. Later in the week, a statue of Lee near the entrance of Duke Chapel on Duke University’s campus was also defaced .

In the Asheville case, police encourage anyone with information to call the department at 828-252-1110 or Crime Stoppers at 828-255-5050.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak