By unanimous vote Tuesday evening, Asheville city council approved a resolution that calls for the removal of two Confederate monuments, while creating a group to decide the future of the Vance Monument in Pack Square. The Buncombe County board of commissioners will also vote on the resolution at its next meeting this coming Monday.
City council’s two black members – Shaneika Smith and Keith Young - spoke on the resolution before the vote. Young noted the monuments were erected after Reconstruction era, such as the Vance Monument which was erected in 1898. Young said white leaders of the city were sending a message at the time. "To remind black men and women, that (white people) still have power, still have control, and that this is your place in society," Young said during the meeting, which was held virtually via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I don't want to be a part of that. And if anyone else wants to be a part of that, you show your true colors."
The marker for Confederate General Robert E. Lee in front of the Vance Monument, and the memorial for Confederate soldiers outside of the Buncombe County courthouse are the monuments in question. Both were erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the city and county will give the group 90 days to remove the monuments. A shroud will cover the 65-foot high Vance Monument until a decision is reached on whether to remove it or re-contextualize it. (Read the resolution here)
BUDGET HEARING DELAYED AS CUTS COULD BE COMING TO POLICE DEPARTMENT
City council also pushed back a Tuesday public hearing on the proposed budget for next fiscal year until August 25th. Instead, council will approve an interim budget which keeps all spending flat until a new proposal can be approved in September. Activists at the end of last week’s protests called for cuts to police funding in the new budget, with the group Black AVL Demands calling for 50% of the police budget be invested instead in Asheville’s black community. City manager Debra Campbell says Tuesday's decision was in response to the voices of those protests. "We have heard you, and we want to respond and move forward together as a community," Campbell said during the meeting.
Meanwhile Asheville police chief David Zack addressed council Tuesday night too, at the behest of mayor Esther Manheimer and other city leaders. Zack agreed with council members and called for an outside entity to investigate his department’s actions during last week’s protests. Tear gas was used during the first four nights of protests in Asheville, and police destroyed supplies at a makeshift medic station for protesters Tuesday night, something Zack apologized for after initially saying officers destroyed bottles of water at the station because similar objects had been thrown at them during earlier protests.