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After 6-1 vote, Wilmington settles with Daughters of the Confederacy to permanently remove downtown statues

The two confederate statutes located at the intersection of Market and Third streets in downtown Wilmington.
City of Wilmington
The two confederate statutes located at the intersection of Market and Third streets in downtown Wilmington.

The statues, which date back to 1909 and 1922, were erected during the Jim Crow period by the Daughters of the Confederacy. State law protects them from being removed — but the City of Wilmington found a legal loophole and voted to take them down, with one vocal holdout.

A North Carolina state law forbids local governments from removing disputed monuments without state approval, but the city of Wilmington has found a special legal loophole- though it might not work in other localities.

The Wilmington city attorney’s office was able to find documents proving that the two confederate statues in downtown Wilmington were only ever administered by the city, and not owned by the city.

Instead, each statue was owned by Cape Fear 3, a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. City Attorney John Joye lays it out, and refers to the organization at CF3: “The city granted permission for the statue to be erected. There is no evidence whatsoever that there was ever an offer of gift or of dedication ... So that leads to my legal opinion that CF3 has the superior claim to these statues.”

The organization sent a letter to the city asking for the statues back — after legal negotiations, the city agreed to do just that. According to Joye, the settlement means the statues can be relocated without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark appeared dismayed about the outcome, and said the vote should come up at the official council meeting, not at an agenda brief.

“We’re taking these down because of mob rule," Rivenbark said, casting the sole vote against the settlement agreement.

Rivenbark said: “Not just no, but hell no.”

The statue bases are now set to join their statues in storage until the Daughters of the Confederacy can retrieve them.

Below: Settlement agreement between the City of Wilmington and CF3

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.