Top lawmaker says no plans to change NC law protecting Confederate monuments

Silent Sam (A.J. Janavel/CBS North Carolina)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s no secret the talk of taking down Confederate monuments across the state is drawing passionate opinions from both sides.

That includes our state leaders who remain divided over who has the authority to take down the Confederate monument, Silent Sam, on UNC’s campus.

A state law already on the books is at the core of that issue.

“Local governments ought to be able to determine how to take these monuments down,” said Sen. Dan Blue, (D-Wake County) Senate Minority Leader.

State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 22 in 2015. It stops the removal of monuments, including Confederate monuments, without the approval of the State Historical Commission.

Sen. Tommy Tucker, (R-Union County), one of the bill’s original sponsors, has told CBS North Carolina it was about protecting history.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Friday he has not been asked to bring the law back before the body.

“The law is in place,” he said. “I think the law should be followed. If someone has proposed changes to the law, then obviously they have an opportunity at some point to offer those.”

The law provides an exception when “a building inspector or similar official” determines it poses a threat to public safety.

Governor Roy Cooper told UNC that is grounds for the university to remove it.

“We’ve had our legal people look at it,” Cooper said. “I’ve looked at it. I believe that exception is there.”

UNC says it will follow the law and doesn’t agree that it’s received the green light by anyone with authority to relocate the statue.

The UNC Board of Trustees released a statement regarding Silent Sam Friday, saying in part:

Above all, regardless of the circumstance, the chancellor has a responsibility to the people of North Carolina to uphold all state laws. With this new law, it is relatively easy for many individuals to speculate about its meaning or offer possible loopholes as ways to operate around the law. It would be unwise and imprudent for the University to take any action regarding the monument without additional legal clarity, and we would expect no less from our chancellor. Moreover, the University will enforce all policies regarding signage and the proper use of grounds and facilities. A consistent application of policy is critical to ensuring a functional, daily operation of the University.

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