GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A judge gave a big win to a group hoping to move a Confederate monument from in front of the Gaston County Courthouse. The case could go to trial later this year.
At its center is a three-story high monument, which the NAACP argues is a symbol of white supremacy.
Reporter Ken Lemon has followed the case from the start. He learned the attorney for Gaston County commissioners asked the judge not to move forward with the case until an appeals court rules on a similar case in Alamance County. That could have delayed the case in Gaston County by at least another 6 months.
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But on Monday, the judge said no. The ruling made local NAACP president Chris Thomasson happy.
“I said ‘thank you Jesus,’” he told Lemon.
The NAACP is part of a group of plaintiffs who sued Gaston County Commissioners to have the monument removed from the front door of the courthouse.
“On this building, we have ‘In God We Trust.’ No more than 50 feet away, we have a Confederate monument,” Thomasson said.
The attorney for Gaston County argued that a judge in a very similar case in Alamance County ruled a state law said only the state legislature can remove monuments.
“Alamance County has no choice but to leave the monument in place because the law does not allow the county to remove it,” attorney Brad Overcash said.
On Monday, he asked the judge to wait on the appeals court ruling in the Alamance County case before deciding this case.
“That’s an identical question that’s going to be faced in this case,” Overcash said.
The plaintiff’s attorney said Gaston County commissioners were not powerless. He said in 2020, commissioners tasked a group of citizens to decide on the statue’s future, pledging to honor their decision. The group voted to remove the monument but that has not come to fruition.
“Three years ago, the county commissioners were inclined to remove it,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Abraham Rubert-Schewel. “They voted to remove it and then they backed out from that choice to remove it.”
The judge decided Monday to set a schedule that moves the case towards trial. Chris Thomasson called that move hope.
“We are being heard,” he said. “Even though it maybe just a murmur, but we’re being heard.”
Overcash said there is one possibility of a delay in this case. He is a state senator and may be called into session to handle redistricting issues. The judge said in a case like that, his duties as a senator would take precedence over the court case.
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