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Discourse over Asheville Confederate monuments continue as group challenges removal

Discourse over Asheville Confederate monuments
Vance Monument, located in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, is up for discussion whether to be removed or repurposed. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

While Asheville city leaders and Buncombe County leaders are open to the removal of the Vance Monument, one group, the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, claims doing so would be illegal.

Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham says it's no surprise groups like the the Sons of Confederate Veterans are challenging the possible removal of Confederate monuments.

"These monuments have been here for quite awhile, and certainly we expect some of these organizations to come out and state an opinion of wanting them not to be removed," Branham says.

CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS TO BE MOVED FROM DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE

In a lengthy letter the group states that because the Vance Monument is publicly owned, removing it would violate the state's Heritage Protection Act. In addition, a 2015 state law also requires approval from the North Carolina Historical Commission before a public monument can be removed.

However, there are exceptions. Branham says privately owned monuments like the two others in Asheville are exempt from state law.

Also exempt are any monuments deemed to be a public safety hazard.

ATTORNEY: PROTESTERS WITH GUNS MAY HAVE VIOLATED STATE LAW, ASHEVILLE CITY CODE

"This has become a focal point of protests on both sides of the argument," states Branham. "At many cases, there have been firearms present. I would look to what the governor and the state did just last week, removing some of the Confederate monuments at the state house for this exact same reason."

WHILE CONFEDERATE STATUES COME DOWN, OTHER SYMBOLS TARGETED

Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman emailed the following statement to News 13:

The Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County commission voted to create a community task force to get input from the public about the future of the Vance Monument.
A final decision has not been made about whether to remove the monument. Or to reclaim or modify it to reflect our communities values of respect ... And to ensure a safe environment for everyone who lives in our community.
We encourage anyone who has an interest on this to share their perspective with the community task force once it is appointed.

COUNTY APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE FOR THOSE LOOKING TO JOIN VANCE MONUMENT TASK FORCE

Branham says that task force should be assembled within the next couple of weeks and that they will make recommendations within three months.

"We're going to make sure we stay within the law and defend those rights as much as we need to," assures Branham.

News 13 reached out to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and have not yet heard back as of Monday evening, June 29.

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