Asheville City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday condemning the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 and the accompanying racial violence. One woman was killed during protests of the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville.

While City Council voted unanimously on the proclamation (which Mayor Esther Manheimer read in full), Councilman Cecil Bothwell urged his colleagues to go further by endorsing N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for all confederate monuments “and say we intend to remove the three Confederate monuments in downtown Asheville.”

During a public comment period, a handful of speakers expressed varying opinions about what should be done in Asheville. One woman asked council to put the Vance Monument in context by adding other signs explaining the history surrounding it. Another woman assured City Council that monuments are not, in fact, changeable. And a third speaker told City Council that the Vance Monument should be moved to the Vance state historic site near Weaverville.

Commenter Nicole Townsend made an emotional, forceful case for taking more action. Townsend was one of four people arrested Friday and charged with damaging a smaller marker that sits in front of the Vance Monument. Townsend called the proclamation, and accompanying good intentions, “modern day nooses,” and asked City Council “to break unjust laws.”

“I’m asking you to stop with your passiveness and take radical actions,” Townsend said, adding that Asheville should be named a sanctuary city, a designation  limits a city’s cooperation with the the federal government’s moves to enforce immigration law.

Manheimer responded by noting that a 2015 law approved by the North Carolina General Assembly restricts cities and counties from taking any action. The law, signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory, makes it illegal to remove “an event, person or military service that is part of North Carolina’s history” without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission. Manheimer also said that both Asheville City Council and Buncombe County commissioners recently funded the African-American Heritage Commission’s efforts to commemorate the contributions of African-American to the city. Those efforts, which have just begun, she said, while assuring listeners that “a very robust community conversation” has already begun.

Manheimer last week had already issued her own statement condemning the violence.

On Friday, Townsend and three other people were arrested and charged with damaging a marker at the base of the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. The marker commemorates the Dixie Highway, Confederate General Robert E. Lee and another confederate officer, Col. John Connally. The vandals tried to physically remove a metal plaque attached to the granite marker. Manheimer issued another statement, this time calling on activists to exercise their rights peacefully.

Discussions about the future of the Vance Monument have been ongoing for a few years now. The monument is dedicated to former N.C. Gov. Zebulon Vance, who was born in the Weaverville area and is known as North Carolina’s Civil War governor.

The proclamation that City Council approved on Tuesday includes the following:

Whereas, the City of Asheville is saddened and outraged at the escalation of anger,
hatred, and bigotry that hold no place in our society; and,

Whereas, racism is an affront to the ideals of our nation and the conscience of our
residents; and,

Whereas, the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and other hate groups do
not represent the opinions and values of the people of Asheville; and,
Whereas, Asheville is a community with a spirit of inclusion where we celebrate and
honor our diversity; and,

Whereas, Mayor Esther Manheimer has condemned the actions of people who espouse
hate speech against any race or ethnicity, and especially those who promote white supremacy;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF
ASHEVILLE THAT:

The Asheville City Council do hereby reject the message of all hate groups; renounce
racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, the KKK, neo-Nazis, domestic terrorism and hatred; declare that those who want to spread hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the city of Asheville; and commit to ensuring that Asheville remains a place of love and compassion, where hate is not, and never will be, welcome.

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