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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rockingham County commissioners UNANIMOUSLY approve restoring the Confederate monument!

The message went out loud and clear last night from citizens and their elected representatives alike: "Mayor Festerman, tear down this tree!"

Confederate Soldiers Monument in downtown
Reidsville, North Carolina prior to the
May 2011 accident
Lots of friends who went to yesterday evening's meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners conveyed the good news: that by unanimous vote, all five board members passed a resolution calling for the return of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in downtown Reidsville.

And what's more, there was not one person at the near-capacity public hearing in Wentworth who spoke against restoring the monument.

Let that lil' detail sink in, friends and neighbors. During a two-plus hour public meeting that had been announced and advertised well in advance, nobody came to the podium to insist or remotely suggest that the monument remain absent from the town's landscape. That alone indicates the overwhelming belief across the community is that the Confederate Soldiers Monument should go back to its rightful place as a memorial to the men of Rockingham County who, for whatever reason God or conscience led, volunteered to serve and defend what they saw as their homes and their loved ones.

The Confederate Soldiers Monument (seen at right in its proper glory) had stood vigil at the intersection of Scales and Morehead streets in Reidsville since its dedication in 1910. But in May of 2011 the monument was severely damaged and the statue atop it smashed into pieces when a driver fell asleep and crashed into it.

In any other municipality to be found across America, the logical and obvious thing would have been to repair the statue, restore the monument to its previous condition and then let it all stand anew, as if nothing had happened and none the worse for wear. The driver's insurance would have paid for all the work that would have been required.

Except this is Reidsville, North Carolina we're talking about. Oh the people here are fine. But this town's current administration is so drunk on power that it would put Boss Hogg to shame.

So instead of letting things run their proper course, Reidsville's city government removed EVERYTHING pertaining to the monument and WITHOUT consulting the citizenry or even letting it be known that the monument was going to be pulled out at all! There was no due process whatsoever on the part of Reidsville City Council and Reidsville Mayor James Festerman.

Mayor Festerman arbitrarily chose to have the Confederate Soldiers Monument removed wholesale. In its place has been a butt-ugly eyesore that has variably taken the form of a massive planter or the town Christmas tree (the current occupant of the site). I've taken to calling it "Festerman's Folly".

And what has Maximum Mayor James Festerman the First of His Name to say about it? He's gone on record as decreeing that the Confederate statue is "never" going to be returned to its original location.

Huh. If that isn't the mentality of a dictator, then I don't know what would be.

Festerman insists that the monument is a magnet of "controversy". But it had never been before. If there is any now it is only because some people demand to see controversy around the monument. Apparently the fact that it's a (gasp!) monument to soldiers who fought in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War is enough to... something. Rationale on the part of Reidsville government in the matter has been spotty at best.

Confederate history enthusiasts - many dressed in period costume - have protested for the return of the monument at the site for most of the past two years. It should also be borne in mind that these have been people from all walks of life, both white and black. Those peaceful assemblies ended when the Reidsville Police began prohibiting the protestors from the traffic circle. Okay, actually the protestors were limited to six inches of space in which they could stand (for realz, folks).

Anyhoo, for most of this time a group of citizens calling themselves the Historic Preservation Action Committee (HPAC) has been doing some admirable work toward restoring the monument to downtown Reidsville. As HPAC members have noted, the monument is one toward all the Confederate soldiers of Rockingham County, not just the ones from Reidsville. And that's something that shouldn't be done away with at the whim of one person.

Last night the county commissioners weight in. From the Save the Reidsville Confederate Monument page on Facebook...

Big news tonight from Wentworth, North Carolina! The Rockingham County Commissioners unanimously adopt a resolution in favor of putting the monument back up in Reidsville.The County Commissioner's chamber was filled with those in favor of the monument being restored. All those who spoke from the public were in favor. Not a single negative comment from the public! Emotions were high and it was a standing ovation as the commissioners voted all in favor. Although this resolution has no legal binding withing the City of Reidsville, the Reidsville City council has some pressure on it and now has some explaining to do to the public. More to come as it develops.
Commissioner Craig Travis remarked that "We're talking about a City Council that's run amok. If you don't like what they do, vote them out. The cities need to be held accountable." Indeed, it is now coming to light that there have apparently been some seriously under-handed shenanigans on the part of Reidsville officials to not only obscure and obfuscate its citizens in regard to the monument, but also some illegalunethical legal finagling involving the United Daughters of the Confederacy. I'm gonna be listening for more about that particular item especially...

If you wanna read more here are all the posts that have appeared on this blog about the monument since the 2011 accident. And fellow Reidsvillian Rob Jernigan has been all over this matter since Day One: here's his Speaking Up & Out news site, which Rob has said will be hosting video of last night's meeting later today.

If this momentum keeps going, it wouldn't surprise me if Festerman's Folly was ripped out by the end of the year and the Confederate Soldiers Monument put back where it belongs.

I'll be praying that there is enough shred of sanity to make it so.

EDIT 10:39 a.m. EST: D'oh! Rob works fast! Here's the video from last night's meeting that he just posted...


Anonymous said...

Leaders in Reidsville need to grow a set!

C.W. Roden said...

Great blog Mr. Knight.
Love what you wrote, it was spot on and very well said.
The monument belongs to the men who died and it stood for so long in their honor. It should be restored.


Anonymous said...

What will become of the two women expelled from the UDC for supporting the monument? They need to be publically vindicated for the humiliation at the hands of the North Carolina Division of UDC. The UDC has an arbitration policy befor kicking out members and the UDC did not,follow their own policy.