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2 Confederate memorials defaced in Charlotte

The word “racist” has been painted on a Confederate monument that sits across from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department outside the Old City Hall, Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
The word “racist” has been painted on a Confederate monument that sits across from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department outside the Old City Hall, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Two Confederate war memorials in Charlotte were found defaced on Wednesday, including one that was the center of debate last week between Mecklenburg County commissioners and the public.

Vandals apparently smeared liquid cement across both sides of an obscure monument unveiled in 1929 during the 39th reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, county officials said. The monument stands perched on a hill between the Grady Cole Center and American Memorial Stadium on North Kings Drive.

Someone also spray painted “Racist” on the memorial on the grounds of Old City Hall on Trade Street. The Confederate Memorial Association of Charlotte erected the monument in 1977.

The emotion behind it was clearly one of anger, frustration, darkness.

Dan Morrill, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

Police are investigating both incidents. The crimes come as the nation debates the appropriateness of the Confederate battle flag and Confederate monuments.

State lawmakers are expected to soon vote on a bill that would reclassify monuments and memorials on public property as “objects of remembrance” that can only be removed or altered with a state law. On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee passed the measure, which could go for a full House vote by the end of the week.

“The emotion behind it was clearly one of anger, frustration, darkness,” Dan Morrill, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, said of the incidents. “It was not what you would call a very magnanimous or positive act.”

Mecklenburg County commissioners don’t expect to debate the 1929 monument again

Maintenance workers found the defaced 1929 monument at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, a county spokesman said. The word “Confederate” on the front of the pillar had been covered with liquid cement that appeared to have hardened. Also covered were parts of an engraving of the Confederate battle flag and all of an inscription that praised soldiers for upholding the “Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South.”

Such language raised issues for some residents and county commissioners who at a meeting last week discussed removing the monument or erecting beside it a plaque reflecting contemporary attitudes about race. Some members of the public called for the monument’s removal because they felt it celebrated white supremacy. Others were adamant that it be kept in place for its historic value.

Commissioners did not make a decision and have said they don’t plan to take the issue up again.

The City Hall incident is believed to have happened between 6 p.m. Tuesday and 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, according to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police news release.

When asked whether the city has any plans to move the monument, the city of Charlotte said City Council has not discussed the issue. It referred questions about the vandalism to the police, who asked for the public’s assistance in identifying the person responsible.

The monument says: “Mecklenburg County remembers with honor her gallant sons who fought in the armies of the Confederate states. With the other brave soldiers of the South, they struggled nobly for the cause of independence and constitutional self-government. Their heroic deeds will be forever honored by patriotic men and women.”

The monument also has an etching of the Confederate battle flag.

The one at American Legion Memorial Stadium is overtly racist. The one at (old) City Hall is very different.

Morrill

If officials opt to remove either of the defaced monuments, they first have to receive a certificate from the historic landmarks commission. But emergency repairs don’t need the group’s approval, said Morrill of the landmarks commission. He said he spoke with the county’s park and recreation director, who felt the veterans reunion memorial could be cleaned.

Morrill said the defaced monuments inherently have different meanings.

“The one at American Legion Memorial Stadium is overtly racist,” he said. “The one at (old) City Hall is very different. It simply praises the service of the Confederate veterans. It doesn’t have any overtly white superiority or white supremacy language to it. That might be a nuance that some people don’t identify with.”

Anyone with information concerning the memorials’ defacing is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Staff writer Langston Taylor contributed

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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