A collection of local elected officials, including Mebane City Council member Sean Ewing, joined members of the Alamance Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Saturday morning at the Sesquicentennial Park in downtown Graham to protest the continued presence of the Confederate monument and statue in the Old Courthouse Square in downtown Graham.
Although four individuals wound up getting arrested - including Alamance NAACP President Barrett Brown - the event demonstrated another example of local residents in Alamance County coming together to peacefully protest the presence of the Confederate Monument without bloodshed or any violent incidents.
“The Alamance NAACP, Agents for Change, Siembra, and Friends of North Carolina Legislation are issuing this call to action in solidarity with organizers and community leaders demanding that racism and police violence is dismantled in all of its forms within Alamance County,” stated a press release announcing the event. “A racial reckoning is happening across the nation as America’s moral consciousness has been shaken to its core in regard to race, police brutality, and social justice.”
“It was a very peaceful event, with many partners around Alamance County,” added Ewing in a telephone interview with the Enterprise on Monday afternoon.
Speakers included Ewing, Ian Baltutis, City of Burlington Mayor, Barrett Brown, ANAACP President, Rev. Kendal McBroom, Alamance Agents for Change, and Pastor of Turner’s Chapel AME Church, Rev. J. Jay Kennett, Down Home NC: Alamance, Pastor – Hillsborough UCC (HUCC), Pam Scwingl - Friends Committee on North Carolina Legislation, Juan Miranda of Siembra.
Mayor Baltutis read from an open letter that have been signed by approximately 300 local elected officials, business leaders, and community groups requesting the respectful removal of the Confederate statue.
The organizers indicated that the purpose of Saturday’s event was “exposing the truth of the ways in which racism has eroded the civil rights and equal treatment for all persons is overwhelming. Racism shows up in countless ways such as the lack of transparency or accountability for city or county officials who operate with little to no integrity when facilitating public meetings when county officials uphold property over people in the way police brutality, police involved murders as well as harsh and unfair treatment of immigrants goes unchecked and without redress.”
“We are committed to securing the equality of civil and human rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination. The impacts of racism have negatively impacted the criminal justice system, First Amendment rights, and basic human rights,” the group’s press release added.
“As (Mayor) Baltutis has said, the decision appears to be on the County Commissioners,” said Ewing. “The ownership is apparently on the county. So it would be within their rights to respectfully relocate the statue. And I think that’s something unique right now with all the protests, is that there is a strong, peaceful core of folks around the county that are looking to peacefully, respectfully relocate the statue.”
Despite their efforts to remain entirely peaceful, four people did ultimately get arrested, including Brown and NAACP members Noah Read, Amie Harrison and Rev. Walter Allison.
These non-violent protestors were arrested while Ewing was giving a speech describing how his military experiences had shaped his thoughts on developing unity with his fellow soldiers.
The four individuals who were arrested walked across the street to the area near the Confederate monument, holding protest signs. Brown was the first to walk across. After being asked to move and refusing, suggesting that he was standing in the area peacefully, Brown was placed in a van - soon to be joined by the three others - and taken to the County Jail.
“The Alamance NAACP President got arrested for impeding traffic and resisting arrest by holding a sign on the sidewalk by the monuments - as well as three other people - and (was) charged,” Ewing explained.
Ewing stressed that the goal of the organized groups protesting the presence of the Confederate monument in the heart of Alamance County’s Old Courthouse Square is not to have it vandalized or illegally removed by force. Rather, they are seeking an appropriate relocation to a site that would be accommodating to remembrances of soldiers, such as a Confederate cemetery or the Alamance Battleground Historic Site.
“I’m not seeing the energy to do anything unlawful or violent. I’m not seeing anything like that. It is still on the County Commissioners. It appears it is within their power and their purview,” he said. “To be perfectly honest, for my part, it’s not removal. It’s relocation. That’s something very, very important. And I think we’re getting support on both sides about this one, when it comes to respectful relocation.”