Confederate statue removal soon after Monday night vote

Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 9:41 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - After a 7-2 county commissioner vote Monday night, Pitt County will take down the Confederate statue in Greenville, right in front of the Pitt County Courthouse, in a matter of weeks — if not sooner.

The decision was made in light of a clause about public safety and as the monument has been a focal point of vandalism and destruction during Greenville’s protest for George Floyd.

In the aftermath of nationwide protests following George Floyd’s death, two brothers, Thomas and Parker Ellis, made a petition that gathered more than 6,000 signatures and eventually led to the decision to remove the memorial.

This is not a decision that everyone approves of.

“That statue - it represents our Confederate soldiers, both black and white...They died protecting their rights,” said Tammy Jennette, who voiced her opinion before the county commissioners’ vote Monday night. “They were not slave owners. Most were poor farmers and Pitt County citizens. And if you take that statue down, you're just spitting on their graves."

This is not the first time a petition was made to take down the monument. An ECU graduate student, Kris Rixon, started a similar one back in 2017.

The Ellis brothers said nonetheless, this is a step forward. "This is not all about politics. This is just about being humans and loving one another,” they said.

The statue is owned by the county and with the reason of threatened public safety, the commissioners have the legal authority to take it down.

The county manager said the cost for removal and storage of the monument will probably cost around $100,000. This will come from the board’s contingency fund left over for unforeseen expenses.

June 15, 2020 story

Pitt County commissioners voted Monday night to remove the Confederate statue at the county courthouse in uptown Greenville.

In a 7-2 vote in favor of immediate removal, commissioners shared why they wanted it gone while others expressed concerns about moving it.

The Confederate statue is on the corner of West 3rd street and Evans Street in Greenville and has been there for decades.

"For the purpose of ensuring the public safety and immediately remove the United Daughters of Confederacy statue, which was erected at the Pitt County Courthouse in 1914 in memorial to the cause of the Confederacy. Upon its removal, it is to be stored and secured in the county until such time that it may be appropriately relocated or otherwise dispatched."

Pitt County Commissioner Chris Nunnally voted to remove the Confederate statue.

"To take down a symbol, of a racist past. Not because we hate, but because we begin to reconcile and because we love"

Commissioners Tom Coulson and Lauren White were the two lone opposing votes Monday night.

White said, "No, simply because I don't think the state's statute allows to store without a relocation site."

The Confederate statue is 27 feet tall and the heaviest piece weighs about 2,500 pounds.

Commissioners said 12 companies were contacted about removing the statue and 3 bids were made ranging from $25,000 to $325,000.

The County Engineer said it would cost $250 to $300 a month to store the statue offsite.

Some Eastern Carolina residents agree with Coulson and White's decision to vote no on removing the historic statue.

"It's kind of silly to try and remove a statue due to the situation that happened in Minnesota," said one resident.

While others in the community disagree with the statue ever being placed at the county courthouse.

One local veteran said, “I am an Air Force veteran and one of our oaths is to protect the constitution against all enemies. Foreign and domestic. And I feel like the confederacy was a domestic enemy so we should not be celebrating or monumenting them in may kind of way.”