Orange County legislators plan to propose a bill that would relocate Confederate statue Silent Sam from Polk Place to a location with fewer public safety concerns.
N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, will sponsor the bill at this year’s short General Assembly legislative session in May, with help from Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, and N.C Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-Orange.
Despite student protests and backlash from many UNC graduates, the Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act prohibits the University from removing the statue from public property.
Given the 2015 law, Meyer said state legislators are going to have to help provide additional legislation.
“This is something that the three of us in the local delegation have been concerned about for a long time," Meyer said. "The reason now is that we’ve seen a turning of the tide in our society’s approach to Confederate memorials, and we know there is a specific interest on campus in addressing this.”
The bill is currently in the early stages of drafting but Insko has been in conversation with legislative members to gain support. A timeline for the potential relocation has not been determined.
Insko has called on Chapel Hill Town Council to collaborate in the drafting of the resolution. Mayor Pam Hemminger previously asked UNC Chancellor Carol Folt to seek permission to store the statue from the state historical commission in August, with Hemminger saying relocated rather than removed.
"We're trying to keep relations good because the University is between a rock and a hard place," Hemminger said.
Chapel Hill Town Council has not seen a resolution yet, but many members have expressed support for the bill.
Town council member Allen Buansi said the statue should be relocated to address the danger of harm and ensure the prosperity of the University's future.
"As one of our state's crown jewel institutions, we can't afford to turn away some people who have given and continue to give so much to the University and its diversity,” he said.
Meyer said he thinks the majority of Orange County would favor the move, but he is skeptical about the state as a whole.
"I think that — statewide — this will continue to stir the Confederate monuments controversy, and I'm sure that we will receive some push-back from specific advocacy organizations," he said.
At this time, there are no solidified proposals on where the statue would be moved. Many officials have suggested museums, nearby battlefields or memorials.
“The statue belongs somewhere it can be referenced, used as a teaching tool and thought of in the correct context,” Hemminger said.
Meyer said the three local legislators have reached out to N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans to work together to find an appropriate location for the Confederate statue.
He said he's willing to hear suggestions from the community, and they're still in the preliminary stages in deciding how to approach the proposal.
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