RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A 75-foot-tall Confederate monument dedicated to North Carolina’s fallen soldiers from the Civil War is being removed from the grounds of the State Capitol.
Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s orders, crews began dismantling the granite monument early Sunday morning and work continued until Sunday night.
The statue of a Confederate soldier, which has been perched at the top of the monument since it was first erected in 1895, was the first portion to be dismantled by workers. Crews struggled to remove the pillar, which is estimated to weigh up to 26,000 lbs.
Friday night, crowds pulled down two statues that were lower on the same monument.
“This not history,” said Demote Alford, who supports the removal of the monument. “These were folks that committed treason against the United States. We should remember them exactly how they were. These were people that kept humans as property.“
A large crowd gathered Sunday at Salisbury and Hillsborough streets gazed up as the monument was being taken down.
Many people were in support of the removal, but some were standing quietly against it.
“It was good to see that we’re moving forward in a positive light and not glorifying racism,” said Alejandro Sanchez, who drove with his family from Zebulon to witness the historic moment.
A 2015 state law bans monuments from being removed from state property, but there is an exception if the monument is deemed “a threat to public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.”
Cooper ordered the monument removed for the public’s safety after protestors started dismantling it themselves on Friday. Protestors climbed the monument and pulled down the other two Confederate soldier statues using ropes.
Crowds hung one of the Confederate soldier statues from a nearby street light later that night. Several officers were wounded in an initial attempt to stop the toppling of the statues.
“I just don’t like the fact that we tore them down without peaceful protests or without legislation saying take them down,” said Van Thorp, who had mixed feelings. “The destruction we’ve seen all around our communities are works of non-Americans.”
Cooper also ordered two separate Confederate monuments dismantled Saturday and crews took those away over later that day.
N.C. Sons of the Confederacy sent this statement to CBS 17 about Cooper’s decision:
“We condemn the illegal actions of Governor Cooper in the strongest possible language. Those actions flagrantly violate the Monuments Protection Law of 2015 and the formal ruling of the North Carolina Historical Commission, August 22, 2018, which decided that by law the Confederate monuments on Capitol Square must remain there.
We also condemn his blatant lies about our monuments and memorials. They are not symbols of white supremacy and/or racism and he knows it.
His orders for law enforcement to stand down in the face of a lawless mob set the stage for his excuse to remove monuments dedicated to people who died serving the state of North Carolina.
We are a nation of laws. We must follow the law or we are no better than a third world country. Violence in any form is never acceptable.
We are currently exploring legal action and working with members of the NC General Assembly to have the monuments returned to their rightful places.”
It’s unclear when crews will finish dismantling the monument. An unofficial celebration of the removal is planned for Monday afternoon at the State Capitol.
CBS17 reached out to Cooper’s office to see how much removing the monuments will cost but have not heard back.