This isn't the first time the statue has become an issue. There were those who objected to its placement in front of the new courthouse when it was moved there.
In 2015, following the murder of nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylan Roof, there was an effort to have the statue removed and a rally by Confederate sympathizers to keep it in place. Roof was arrested in Shelby after fleeing Charleston and was later sentenced to die for the mass murder, although he has appealed his sentence.
In July 2015, less than a month after Roof's rampage, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans held a rally at the statue in Gastonia. The main speaker at that rally was Bill Starnes, commander of the Gaston County SCV, who also spoke Tuesday night.
Chris Thomason, then as now president of the Gaston County NAACP, said then that the statue needs to be moved. "It belongs in a museum, not on the grounds of a public building," Thomason said five years ago. He also spoke Tuesday night.
Several of the speakers Tuesday night wore the SCV logo on their clothing.
Two of the Commissioners have expressed opposing opinions about the statue. Commissioner Ronnie Worley says it should be moved. Commissioner Chad Brown wants to keep it where it is.
Brent Messer, a former president of the Gaston County Museum of Art & History, suggested moving it to the historic Gaston County Courthouse in Dallas. There is actually a Confederate Soldiers Monument already there in front of the historic courthouse. It was placed there in 2003. Another of Tuesday evening's speakers suggested moving the monument to a graveyard where Confederate soldiers are buried.
Philbeck says Commissioners can do what they want, but Sink's comments seem to disagree. Sink, who served as Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party prior to becoming Gaston County attorney in March, says the only way it can be moved is to protect the statue.
Keigher said his committee will include a diverse group of citizens, adding that after discussions, it will make a recommendation to the Commissioners within four weeks.
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