GRAHAM, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judge has dismissed a lawsuit by civil rights leaders that sought the removal of a Confederate statue in front of a historic courthouse.

Superior Court Judge Don Bridges ruled Tuesday against the state NAACP, which had argued that the statue in front of the Alamance County Courthouse was a danger to public safety and violated constitutional rights to equal protection, according to The Times-News.

A 2015 state law sharply limits state and local governments from removing Confederate statues and other objects of remembrance. The NAACP had argued in its 2021 lawsuit that county officials had leeway to remove the statue under an exception for public safety. The statue, erected in 1914, has been the site of protests in recent years.

Separately, North Carolina’s governor ordered the removal of Confederate monuments outside the state’s historic Capitol in 2020, citing the public safety clause in the law after nearby monuments were damaged by protesters. Protesters have toppled other statues in recent years on the campus of the University of North Carolina and in downtown Durham.

But Bridges said that he interprets the state law as protecting the Alamance County statue and that the local county commission is entitled to follow it.