Secession monument talks pushed into May

The Sons of Confederate Veterans had wanted to install a granite monument at Patriots Point.

TOM SPAIN

North Charleston isn't immune to the controversy that helped kill a public monument at Patriots Point to honor the signers of South Carolina's 1860 Ordinance of Secession.

A day after Mayor Keith Summey said he wanted the monument to come to his city, he pulled a presentation on the proposal from today's City Council agenda. Instead, the issue has been bumped to next month, when the city will hold a public input hearing.

The move came after City Hall received numerous phone calls Wednesday from residents looking to express their opinions on allowing the monument to be placed on city property at Riverfront Park.

One outraged resident was Michelle Hilton, who said the idea of celebrating secession is an affront to the blacks who make up nearly 49 percent of the city's population.

"It reminds me that we were shackled once," said Hilton, who added she could not understand why such a public venue would even be considered.

"That's a place where we want to feel comfortable with our families," she said. "I can't say I feel comfortable taking my family there knowing there is a monument reminding everyone that, as a race, they tried to keep us down."

Last month, the Patriots Points Development Authority deadlocked in a 3-3 decision on whether to allow a secession monument on their property in Mount Pleasant. The denial came largely after many members of the community spoke out against the state division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' plan as a means of helping commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

After Patriots Point shot down the idea, Summey offered a site at Riverfront Park, where he suggested the memorial could stay until the H.L. Hunley submarine museum opens, potentially several years from now. Summey called secession a recognizable part of the state's history, no matter what side of the war's arguments you follow.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans' proposal calls for a memorial about 12 feet tall and made of blue Georgia granite. It would depict the secession document and two relevant scenes, while listing the names of its 170 signers.

The secession convention was held in Columbia and Charleston, Dec. 17 and Dec. 20, 1860, eventually leading to the Civil War.

Jeff Antley, the Sons of Confederate Veterans member in charge of finding a location for the memorial, had no comment Wednesday on why the matter was being postponed.

The issue will now be first addressed in North Charleston in a public input session scheduled for May 13 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.

Michael Brown, one of three black members of City Council, said he was glad the mayor decided to seek public input, but still feared that allowing the monument would end up polarizing parts of the community.

Putting the statue at the Hunley museum would be the right move, Brown said, "but the public setting is not a good idea."