‘Take it down!’

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Surry protestors demand Confederate monument’s removal

“Take it down!”

That was the one and only demand a group of protestors — about 15 in total — made of Surry County’s Board of Supervisors while gathered at the base of Surry’s Confederate monument the evening of Aug. 7.

Protestors chanted this phrase, often followed by the response, “all the way down,” as they marched from the county’s government complex on School Street to the county’s courthouse where the monument is located. Chants of, “Enough is Enough!” and “Black Lives Matter!” could also be heard.

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The county supervisors have scheduled a public hearing on the monument’s fate this Thursday, beginning at 7 p.m.

The monument depicts a Confederate soldier standing atop a stone base engraved with the Confederate battle flag and the inscription “Our heroes 1861-1865, to the Confederate soldiers of Surry County, that we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line, erected by the Confederate Memorial Association of Surry County A.D. 1909.”

Chrissy Appel organized the protest on behalf of Rooting Out Racism, a group she and Pastor Anthony Washington of First Baptist Church in Claremont founded with seven other county residents in June following a larger Black Lives Matter protest that month. According to its Facebook page, the group now has 257 members.

Washington described the evening’s event as “good trouble,” quoting the late civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, who died July 17.

“This moment is too important for us to let it slip by us,” Washington said. “John Lewis didn’t never quit … could’ve said you know what, forget all this, I got bloodied, I should’ve died … other civil rights leaders, they could’ve quit when things got tough, but they hung in there, and because they hung in there, we’ve got a better life. But if we want our children to have a better life, we gotta hang in there and do the same kind of hard heavy lifting, the hard work, it takes to make change, especially in Surry County.”

“If they [the Board of Supervisors] decide they don’t want to vote on it, we gonna call them … we’re not gonna rest, we’re not gonna keep silent, we’re not gonna stop marching,” Washington added.

Surry has now seen three protests — two in June and the Aug. 7 one — calling for the monument’s removal.

A petition on change.org calling for the removal of the Confederate monument has received 1,296 signatures to date, while a competing petition to keep the monument, also on change.org, has received 258 signatures.

Changes to state law, which took effect July 1, allow localities four options with regards to any Confederate monuments they own. They can remove them, relocate them, cover them or add signage contextualizing them. Prior to any action, localities must hold a public hearing and advertise said hearing no less than 30 days prior.

Should the county vote to remove the monument, the new law requires that it offer the monument for relocation to any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield, though it need not accept any such offers. The law states that the local governing body shall have sole authority to determine the final disposition of the monument or memorial.

Appel plans to keep the Rooting Out Racism group alive regardless of how the Board of Supervisors ultimately votes. If the group’s push to have the monument removed is successful, Appel plans to tackle other social justice issues.

“We haven’t ironed those out yet,” she said.

But for now, the focus is the monument.

To participate in the hearing, which will be virtual in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, attendees may call 1-877-568-4106 and enter access code 447-043-91.