GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Violence and protests took center stage in Charlottesville over the weekend following the city’s plan to remove a Robert E. Lee statue, and now a petition to remove to PItt County Confederate Soldiers Monument at the Pitt County Courthouse has been posted online.
There are similar statues throughout eastern North Carolina, in towns like Washington, Kinston and New Bern. For some, the statues stand for slavery and hate, while others see them as pieces of history that can be learned from.
Sons of Confederate Veterans member Virgil Byrd studies Confederate history and said there are parts of the Confederate army that are looked over and forgotten, which can create blurred lines when it comes to removing them.
“These monuments represent the common Confederate soldier,” said Byrd. “Just the average guy, which also includes somewhere around 30,000 blacks who fought for Confederacy as well as 1,500 Native Americans.”
Greenville resident Donald Newton said the history Byrd said the statues represent can still be painful.
“It is American history, but in the same breath when you use Confederacy and the flag and try to use it with the KKK, then that’s when you got hate,” Newton said.
Those who have signed the petition said they are standing with Charlottesville and those who were injured and killed by white supremacists that marched on the city.
The petition is asking for 500 signatures and organizers plan to present the petition to Pitt County commissioners on August 21.
However, state law requires an act by the General Assembly to remove a monument.
Byrd said he wants to keep history intact.
“It’s history and all history is important,” Byrd said. “You have to make sure history is understood, so you don’t make the same mistakes.”
But Newton said those mistakes may already have come full circle.
“Everybody got free speech, but like I said, when you start to take symbols of American history and try to mix it in with hate, that’s when you have your problems,” said Newton.