Local NAACP wants Delaware Confederate monument removed

 This monument to Delawareans who fought for the Confederacy was unveiled near Georgetown, Delaware in 2007.(File/WHYY)

This monument to Delawareans who fought for the Confederacy was unveiled near Georgetown, Delaware in 2007.(File/WHYY)

The Lower Sussex County Branch of the NAACP is calling for the removal of a confederate monument in Georgetown following a violent white supremacist rally in Virginia over the weekend.

The group leading the march in Charlottesville said they were protesting the pending removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Several of the marchers held confederate flags, shouting racial and religious slurs. One man was arrested for allegedly ramming a vehicle into counter-protesters, killing one and injuring several others.

Political and social leaders across the country have since called for the demolition of Confederate memorials in their hometowns.

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There is a confederate memorial outside the Marvel Museum in Georgetown. The monument, honoring confederate soldiers, stands beside a Delaware flag and a Confederate flag.

“As the specter of white nationalist terrorism grows across America–from the Charleston church shooting to the Portland train stabbing to last weekend’s murderous rampage in Charlottesville–it has become increasingly clear that this country’s Confederate monuments are no longer testaments to the past, but idols of white nationalist future,” the Lower Sussex County Branch of the NAACP stated.

“When these structures–and the Confederate flag that so often waves alongside them–become a rallying point for Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists, they exist only as a divisive threat to the greatness of America as the most inclusive and diverse country on earth.”

The group said it credits Delaware lawmakers for denouncing the white supremacists in Charlottesville, but said more action needs to be taken.

They’re calling on Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, and Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, to request that the Controller General’s Office halt its payment of $11,500 in Grant-in-Aid money to the Georgetown Historical Society until it removes the monument from its grounds.

“We certainly believe in a private organization’s Constitutional right to free speech–even speech that serves to demean and taunt persons of color, many of whom are descendants of the very slaves the Confederacy fought against the United States to keep,” the NAACP said. “But we were shocked and dismayed to learn that taxpayer dollars are in subsidizing that message and that must end immediately.”

In an email, Pettyjohn said he has no plans to ask the office to stop funding to the Georgetown Historical Society.

“This is money that has been authorized by the General Assembly in the fiscal year 2018 grant in aid bill,” he said. “The money allocated does not pay for maintenance or upkeep of the memorial.”

Pettyjohn added that monuments and other historical items at museums educate visitors on the mistakes of the past, and how the country has learned from them.

“It’s on private property and located within the confines of a museum campus. It serves as a reminder of the past and the lessons learned from that terrible time during the history of our nation,” he said.

“Wiping these from our museums is a dangerous road to travel. Items in or at museums should be placed to invoke critical thought. Sanitizing all offensive material from our museums and history only serves to erase those costly lessons learned.”

Briggs King also said halting funding would not be possible, and would hurt other historical programs. She also echoed the senator’s comments on the importance of remembering history.
“The funding has already been approved by the General Assembly, and I’m not sure how you would stop it. It’s used for a variety of purposes—for education, and upkeep of some of the other buildings. No public funds were used to erect that monument….I think something that has been there for a while, and is historic, has the right on private property to displayed,” she said.

“We cannot deny or hide what Hitler did in Germany. It doesn’t mean we have to embrace it, but realize what led to that so those mistakes aren’t repeated, and I would say the same thing in many significant events in the United States and around the world. We have to learn from these things, and trying to hide them in the darkness of the night or not displaying them for what they were may not be the best thing either.”

Earlier this week, Delaware Gov. John Carney responded to questions about the violence in Charlottesville and the flying of Confederate flags.

“The Confederate flags flying across the south in different places, like Georgetown, misrepresent the history—they’ve been a way of rewriting history since Civil War times, and I think we ought to follow the lead of South Carolina and take them down,” Carney said.

Carney’s spokesman further clarified those comments by saying the governor believes the Confederate flag symbolizes the country’s history of racism and injustice, and would be inappropriate on public property. But, he said Delawareans have a right to display flags on their private property, even when they’re offensive to many people.

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