N.C. House leaders pressed the pause button Monday on a $4 million plan to build monuments to African American heritage in downtown Raleigh, saying they’re reconsidering after protesters took down Confederate statues over the weekend.
Several members of the chamber’s Republican leadership said they’re not sure the state should spend money on new statues if monuments are going to be torn down.
There was also money in this bill to add “contextual signage” to Confederate monuments on the state’s Capitol grounds, and those monuments have largely been removed after protestors dragged Confederate soldier statues down from one of them Saturday night.
“We’re just going to assess it this week,” Speaker of the House Tim Moore said Monday evening. “I think there needs to be a broader review.”
State and local leaders have long discussed adding a new statuary park, called Freedom Park, to honor African Americans in downtown Raleigh. There were also plans to add monuments on Capitol Square, and to add signage explaining Confederate monuments that some, including Gov. Roy Cooper, have wanted to remove.
The state’s financial contributions to these two new projects were funded in last year’s budget, but Cooper vetoed it as part of a broader budget fight.
Last week the N.C. Senate voted unanimously to again put $4 million toward these plans. The House planned to add some $200 million to that bill for unrelated university building projects, and that bill was supposed to come before the House Appropriations Committee today, but it was pulled.
House budget writers said the funding is part of a bigger House-Senate discussion on construction spending. Many General Assembly leaders are also upset with Cooper because state law enforcement retreated from the capitol’s largest Confederate monument Saturday night, allowing protesters to pull parts of it down.
Then Cooper declared the rest of Capitol Square’s Confederate monuments to be a public danger, and he largely had them removed Sunday despite a 2015 law passed by the General Assembly to protect these monuments.
“When you see an outbreak of lawlessness that is not constrained, where does that put us?” House Appropriations Co-Chairman Dean Arp said Monday evening. “We’re all shocked by unchecked lawlessness this weekend. That has an effect on everybody down here.”
House Rules Chairman David Lewis said the bill is “on hold right now.”
“We haven’t decided,” he said. “I just know there’s not an appetite right now to do much over there.”
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