Gaston County leaders vote to relocate controversial Confederate statue

Gaston County leaders vote to relocate controversial Confederate statue

GASTONIA, N.C. — Gaston County leaders voted Monday night to relocate a Confederate statue that sits at the courthouse.

Prior to the vote, residents spoke passionately about whether they believe the statue should stay in front of the courthouse or go.

“It’s difficult when you watch inanimate objects being protected and defended more than you’ve seen your brothers and sisters lives,” one speaker said.

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The statue has been the focus of protests since late June.

The monument has stood in front of the county courthouse for more than 100 years, but there’s a strong effort to relocate it.

Controversy has swirled around the statue for years, especially following the Charleston church shooting in 2015 and then again in 2017 when residents petitioned to remove it.

Last month Channel 9 reported on several protests and marches calling to relocate the monument.

Gaston County Confederate monument
Gaston County Confederate monument (WSOC)

A “Council of Understanding” agreed it needed to be moved and earlier this week, commissioners directed the county attorney to work with lawmakers to draft a bill that would allow voters to decide the statue’s fate.

But because the state legislature won’t meet before the ballots are printed, Commissioner Tracy Philbeck on Thursday night called for a special meeting.

Philbeck posted on social media that he would sponsor a resolution to move the Confederate monument from the Gaston County Courthouse.

He posted the letter on Facebook, which said that because the issue is so important to the community it needs to be resolved.

“I think this compromise would be the best for our city based off of the circumstances that we have,” Philbeck said. “I think it’s best for those who want it moved and I think it’s best for those who want to preserve their heritage.”

“This has not just been a legal decision for us, it’s been -- in my opinion -- it’s been a moral decision,” Tom Keigher said.

In a 6 to 1 vote, county leaders ultimately decided to gift the monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The group will be in charge of moving the statue and they will have six months to find a new place for it.

The county will pay $200,000 to help relocate the statue.

In its place, the county plans place a monument to all Gaston County soldiers who have died in the line of duty.

Gaston County asks state to let voters decide fate of Confederate statue