Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charleston activists call for repeal of Heritage Act, removal of Calhoun monument

Statewide march planned for Jan. 9

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 2:44 PM

click to enlarge S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard joins members of the National Action Network to call for the removal of the statue of John C. Calhoun located in Marion Square - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard joins members of the National Action Network to call for the removal of the statue of John C. Calhoun located in Marion Square
Members of the Charleston branch of the NAACP and the National Action Network are uniting in a call for South Carolina legislators to repeal the state Heritage Act.

Following the attack on counter protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one dead, the debate over Confederate monuments has been reignited, as groups continue to demand their removal. In Charlottesville, white supremacists gathered to oppose plans by city leaders to remove a statue of Confederate general and slave owner Robert E. Lee.

Days after 32-year-old paralegal Heather D. Heyer was run down in Charlottesville, protesters in Durham, N.C., toppled city's Confederate Soldiers Monument, dedicated in 1924. In Charleston, activists continue to focus on the statue of seventh U.S. vice president and staunch defender of slavery John C. Calhoun that overlooks Marion Square. Erected in 1896, the monument to Calhoun sits on property owned by the Washington Light Infantry.
"We stand amidst a statue — the John C. Calhoun statue. It's well known he was the owner of enslaved people. When we know the history of John C. Calhoun, the fact that he saw our ancestors as property, that says a lot about the man himself," said S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard. "So we want to call people to action, like they are doing in Charlottesville, Va., like they are doing in other states around this great country. Bring these statues down of hate."
click to enlarge The statue of John C. Calhoun was erected in 1896 - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • The statue of John C. Calhoun was erected in 1896
Standing in the way of removing or altering any monuments in South Carolina is the state's Heritage Act, which protects any memorials located on public property from being touched unless passed by a two-thirds vote in both branches of the state General Assembly. The Heritage Act extends to monuments as well as streets, bridges, structure, parks, or other public areas dedicated to the memory of any historic figure or event.

Elder James Johnson of the National Action Network announced Tuesday that the group would be organizing a statewide march to promote the repeal of the Heritage Act. Johnson stood alongside president of the Charleston NAACP Dot Scott earlier in the day to call on state leaders to vote for change, evoking the racially motivated attack at Emanuel AME Church by avowed white nationalist Dylann Roof.  "Separating Confederate heritage from racial heritage today is like trying to separate grits from the water that they were cooking in — impossible," said Scott. "What happened at Mother Emanuel and in Charlottesville can't be changed, but 21st century progress can still be made. We call those in our legislature — especially those in the Legislative Black Caucus — to file and approve legislation to repeal the 2000 Heritage Act."
click to enlarge Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott
With protesters in Durham taking immediate action to bring down Confederate monuments in their community following the events in Charlottesville, Scott stated that she hopes similar actions are not required in Charleston, saying, "It shouldn't have to take a mob to go and take it down. And it sure shouldn't take another Mother Emanuel."

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