By Bryant Reed | June 22, 2020 at 11:26 PM EDT – Updated June 23 at 5:36 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Several dozen community and business leaders took part in the forum led by Mayor Bill Saffo and City Councilman Kevin Spears. In the time of tough conversations, Councilman Spears says this is the first of many necessary conversations.
”We see the signs, we ride past city hall, we see the Facebook posts, we’re seeing the comments now,” said Spears. “I’m just saying, please let’s try to get some work done.”
The main topic addressed Confederate statues downtown. Several people expressed frustration and questioned the ethics and legality behind keeping them in place.
”The reality of it is, at one point in time, I could’ve been property,” said Rebecca Tramble, President of Champions for Compassion. “I could’ve been property and some of the people here could’ve been property of another person. We talk about the law and at one point the law said that I am three-fifths of a person. We talk about the history. Let’s preserve history. We venerate what we value and somebody saw fit to venerate George Davis.”
Others inquired about addressing racism as a public health issue in the city so people would be able to get professional help to deal with its effects.
Protesters and activists have called for a citizen’s review board; those called were echoed in the forum saying a checks and balances system would be good for both citizens and law enforcement.
It took some time to go from voicing grievances to working toward a solution but Mayor Saffo did address the issue of the Confederate statues downtown.
“We don’t want to arrest people. We do know that people are passionate about them, in both directions,” said Mayor Saffo. “I’ve been seeing stuff on Facebook that’s very frightening. I have people saying they’re coming to protect the…I have others saying they’re going to take them down. Our job is to have peace here. We can also have a conversation as far as what to do with them. The state statute is very clear and very narrow and we’ve asked for some interpretation at the state level.”
The city attorney did say that, under current law as long as a problem exists—in this case, fear people taking the statues down—the statues in downtown Wilmington can be legally removed. But once that problem passes, they have to be put back up within 90 days.
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