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Cornelius News

150 rally at Confederate Monument

Dan Ahlers Photography

Rally at Confederate Monument / Dan Ahlers Photography

July 15. By Dave Yochum. More than 150 people stood in the early evening heat yesterday on Zion Avenue to call for the removal of the Confederate Monument in front of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church.

Virtually everyone masked due to COVID-19, they chanted “What do you want? Take it down” and When do we want it? Now.”

Cornelius Today photo

NC Sen. Natasha Marcus spoke, as did Mayor Woody Washam. Commissioner Thurman Ross, the only African-American on the Town Board, was there along with mostly white rally-goers, community activists and a handful of clergy, including the co-senior pastors at Mt. Zion who have called for the statue’s removal as well as Rev. Jerel Law, pastor of Love Lake Norman, a non-denominational church that meets in the Oak Street Mill.

The 110-year-old statue has been mostly ignored by white people for generations, according to Mayor Woody Washam.

For African-Americans, it’s another story. Lisa Mayhew-Jones, president of the Smithville Community Coalition, said the statue reminds descendants of slaves—many of the residents of Smithville are—that their ancestors, including hers, were sold as property.

Nevertheless, she played the role of a peacemaker last night when she told the crowd that descendants of local plantation owners provided the land for the community that is Smithville just east of I-77.

A rally isn’t a place for thoughtful discussion, but Sen. Marcus said Confederate monuments are a sign of oppression to millions of African Americans.

“Consider how you would feel if your ancestors were kidnapped and tortured and enslaved and they erected monuments to those who did it,” she said,

Dan Ahlers Photography

promising to work to repeal the 2015 Historic Artifact Managment and Patriotism Act which protects monuments and memorials commemorating events, persons and military service in North Carolina.

“They’re hurtful,” she said. “They are relics to the Jim Crow past and our past of slavery. They are monuments to the Confederacy which were efforts to keep certain people enslaved for the rest of their lives.”

The Confederate monument in Cornelius sits on private property owned and controlled by the Mt. Zion Monument Association. Leaders of the association have not commented except to say they are considering “all options available to protect and save this significant part of the history of Mecklenburg County and the state of North Carolina.”

The rally was organized by Unity in Community, a group that has officially asked for the monument to be removed.

Dan Ahlers Photography