Dear Mayor Thompson, Members of the Morganton City Council, and City Manager Sandy,
As leaders from the faith community in Burke County, we write to express our shock and outrage at the disturbing events that unfolded on the Courthouse Square on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Each of us has taken a vow to strive for justice, freedom, and peace among all of God’s people, but the scene of hundreds of heavily-armed people assembling in the center of our beloved community where the feelings of tension and anger were palpable flies in the face of these values.
Although existing city policy requires a permit for “any meeting, demonstration, picket line, rally, or gathering of two or more persons for a common purpose as a result of prior planning that interferes or has a tendency to interfere with the normal flow or regulation of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or otherwise occupies any public area in a place opened to the general public,” no permits were issued for any demonstrations, meetings, picket lines, rallies, or other gatherings on June 27 at the Courthouse Square. Nevertheless, the event was allowed to continue for several hours, eventually escalating to the point of an enforced disbursement by law enforcement.
Furthermore, North Carolina General Statute 14-277.2 stipulates that “It shall be unlawful for any person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility or upon any public place owned or under the control of the State or any of its political subdivisions to willfully or intentionally possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapon. Violation of this subsection shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor.” Although there were dozens of people prominently displaying handguns, rifles, and military-style weapons, no citations were issued to anyone.
It cannot be stated clearly enough how grateful we are to our local law enforcement for their professionalism in de-escalating this situation without incident. However, we call upon our leaders in the City of Morganton to support and empower law enforcement officers to enforce existing city policy on permits, as well as North Carolina General Statute 14-277.2. Furthermore, we call upon the City of Morganton to draft a new permit for assembly, clearly stating that NCGS 14-277.2 will be enforced, and that firearms are banned from all demonstrations, rallies, etc. It is crucial that our Mayor, City Council, and City Manager express clear and public agreement with and support of local ordinances and state law.
Due to the ideological flashpoint that the Confederate Veterans’ Monument clearly stirs up, which, as we saw on June 27, poses a clear threat to public safety, we further call for the City of Morganton and the County of Burke to begin a public conversation about how we as a community remember our history honestly, respectfully, and fairly. Without an understanding of where we have been, we have no hope of charting a course to a just and equitable future.
We, the undersigned, stand ready and willing to partner with you in this hard but vital work so that the words of Blessed Martin and the prophet Amos before him might be fulfilled before us, that “justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
The Rev. Dr. Marshall A. Jolly, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church
The Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Bland, Jr., Pastor, First Baptist Church of Morganton
The Rev. Dn. Michael L. Jenkins, Grace Episcopal Church
Rev. John Hagmann, First Presbyterian Church of Morganton
The Rev. B. Kris Kramer, Interim Rector, St. Mary’s & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. Jasper W. Hemphill, Jr., President, Morganton Area Ministerial Association
The Rev. Dr. Tyler P. Roach, Minister to Youth & Family Life, First Baptist Church of Morganton
The Rev. Lauren Carlson, Co-Pastor, Calvary Lutheran Church
The Rev. L. Elaine Hall, Pastor, St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church, Morganton
The Rev. Paul Carlson, Co-Pastor, Calvary Lutheran Church
The Rev. J. Burton Williams, Pastor, North Morganton United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Kevin E. Frederick, Pastor & Head of Staff, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Valdese
The Rev. Dana McKim, Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Morganton
Rev. Jason Koon, Morganton, North Carolina
Norman E. Jones, Jr., Pastor, Salem United Methodist Church
Dr. Marla F. Patchel, Pastor, Green Street Presbyterian Church
Andrew Whisenant, Pastor, Bridge42 Church
Rev. Mary E. Lloyd, St. Paul AME Church, Lenoir, Burke County Resident
The Rev. Fred Schuszler, Minister of Christian Ed & Spiritual Formation, First Baptist Church of Morganton
Rev. Dr. Wayne Arthur Johnson, Sr., Pastor, Shiloh AME Church
Rev. W. Larry Thompson, Pastor, Silver Creek Baptist Church
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!