North Carolina courthouse removes Confederate statue, saying it’s time ‘to move forward’

A Confederate statue that stood for more than 100 years was removed from a North Carolina courthouse early Wednesday, joining a handful of places around the state where such monuments have come down despite a law protecting them.

A crowd of several dozen gathered outside the historic Chatham County courthouse to watch workers carefully dismantle the 27-foot-high statue. Television news footage showed workers atop motorized lifts secure the statue, which was then taken away with the help of a crane.

Workers prepare to remove a Confederate statue from its granite pedestal by the Chatham County courthouse in Pittsboro, N.C. 

Workers prepare to remove a Confederate statue from its granite pedestal by the Chatham County courthouse in Pittsboro, N.C.  (The News & Observer via AP)

Taking down Confederate statues in North Carolina is rare since the state enacted a law in 2015 that restricted the removal of public monuments.

County officials argued in court that the monument was private property owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A judge hearing the group's challenge declined to block the removal.

In past weeks, demonstrators for and against removal had gathered around the statue, leading to scuffles and some arrests.

"The last several months have been a painful time for Chatham County. We've experienced high emotions, division and even violence which have impacted residents, businesses and the overall feel of our community," Chatham County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Dasher said in a statement. "What's clear now is that the overwhelming majority of our residents are eager to move forward."

A state tally shows Confederate monuments are located at contemporary or historic courthouses in about half of the state's counties.

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Onlookers to the statue’s removal Wednesday had mixed opinions.

Robert Butler, a supporter of the monument, described the removal to Raleigh’s WRAL-TV as “heartbreaking.”

"A statue's never hurt a soul, just like a grave memorial,” he said. “Do they hurt anybody?"

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But Sandra Day of Moncure, who is black, told The News & Observer that she supported its removal. She said she got out of bed and put on a heavy coat to watch the statue come down.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be standing here," she said. "I wanted to see it for myself."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.