Petitions both in favor of and against Morganton’s Confederate statue have spread in the days after the Saturday clash over it.
A petition calling for the removal of the statue has received more than 2,500 signatures on change.org. Its organizer, Tyler Hastings, spoke to reporters Tuesday morning in front of the monument about why he believes it should be taken down.
He said when he saw the “disruption and discourse” on the square Saturday afternoon, he wanted to give people who want to see the statue respectfully removed the option to have their voices heard.
“All of these people that gathered here to protect what they view as a symbol of their heritage, I can empathize with them,” Hastings said. “But the message that the statue is sending isn’t one of only heritage, it’s also sending one of racial divisiveness that has been so prominent in our country over the last, especially, three or so years.”
He said it might be a symbol of heritage for some, but it’s a symbol of hate to others.
“I feel that statues and memorials such as these deserve a place in a war history museum,” Hastings said. “Where they can be seen as just that, war history, not as a symbolic representation of who we are as a city and as a community.”
He again said he empathized with people who feel the statue represents their heritage and people who fought against the overpowering Union at the time, but said that the war, in large part, was fought over slavery.
“I don’t think that anything that honors or represents that has a place right here in our town’s main center,” Hastings said.
Elgie McGalliard, a member of the Burke Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he wants to see the statue stay up.
“I don’t think it’s going to do any good to take it down,” McGalliard said. “What’s it going to achieve? Really, what really is it going to achieve? I know some people feel horrid about it, there’s some things I feel horrid about, but we don’t raise Cain about it. We don’t go after other people’s monuments and statues, we just try to be nice about it.”
He said members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans were present at the event Saturday, but that they all stayed away from any of the ongoing altercations.
“We didn’t want to stir up any trouble,” McGalliard said. “We wanted to stay away from it. That’s not our intentions, that’s not our intentions anytime. We had outsiders that stimulated a lot of this, not us.”
If someone were to try to come take the monument down, McGalliard said his group would try to keep them away from it and report them to law enforcement.
“You know, we’ve got new laws and regulations in the state of North Carolina that should be enforced,” McGalliard said.
He said he didn’t know what he would say to anyone who was trying to pull down the monument, and that he would just have to wait and see.
“I don’t make no threats, I don’t make no promises,” McGalliard said. “I hope I never do. We just want to be nice about it, and I hope the other side is nice also. There’s a two-way street in this world, on both sides.””
Another petition on change.org was started Sunday in support of the statue. That petition had received 48 signatures by press time Tuesday.
McGalliard said of the about 1,350 soldiers’ names on the plaques, six of them are related to him. He said the soldiers or their family members had to pay $5 to have their names put on the plaque.
“It means a lot to us,” McGalliard said.
For Kathy Kershaw, the statue doesn’t represent heritage. She said it shows slavery and that it’s offensive. She said she felt like people protecting the statue are trying to protect the slavery that happened for centuries.
“Everybody’s blood is red,” Kershaw said. “Slavery days is over. We’re free. We’re not slaves anymore.”
She said people know Morganton and love all of its features, but that it needs to come together to represent all of the people here and show what it really cares about.
“If it intimidates people ... if it offends them, find a statue that don’t offend no one,” Kershaw said. “Find a peace statue. We need peace in this state.”
Kershaw and her grandson were driving in downtown Morganton late Tuesday morning while McGalliard and one of his fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans, who wouldn’t give his name to reporters, put a wreath up on the monument.
The News Herald asked her how she felt about supporters of the statue calling it their heritage.
“What about our heritage?” Kershaw said. “If that’s a symbol of their heritage, put Dr. Martin Luther King up there. That’s our heritage. He brought us through freedom. He said ‘We shall overcome,’ and that’s what we want to do.”
People don’t need to look to the statue for an idol, Kershaw said.
“Hatred and love won’t work together,” Kershaw said. “They idolize this statue. God is the one that they need to idolize.”
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