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Groups suing Gaston County over Confederate monument

Several groups, including the NAACP's Gaston County branch, are suing county commissioners to remove the Confederate monument outside the courthouse.

GASTONIA, N.C. — This week will mark one month since several groups, including the NAACP's Gaston County branch, the National Association for Black Veterans' Gaston County chapter, and the Eta Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, filed a lawsuit against county commissioners to remove a Confederate monument from the front of the courthouse.

According to the 25-page lawsuit obtained by WCNC Charlotte, the groups allege the monument is a violation of the North Carolina Constitution's equal protection and anti-race discrimination provisions, among other allegations.

If they get a ruling in their favor, the groups want the monument removed within 45 days of a final court order.

The Gaston County Commissioners meeting was rescheduled as a virtual meeting to Thursday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m.

RELATED: Protests continue over Confederate monument in Gaston County

The county will release instructions on how people can talk during the public comment portion of the meeting later this week.

READ the lawsuit

Commissioners originally voted 6-1 back in August to give the monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which would find a new location on private property. The county also agreed to pay for the monument's removal, until those plans fell through

Gaston County Freedom Fighters' Ro'shaun McClendon is one of the activists who has been pushing for the monument's removal.

"[The commissioners] made a promise to the people in this county," McClendon said. "I think it's time to fulfill their promise to this county."

Commissioner Chad Brown was the only one on the board to vote against moving the monument, and he introduced a resolution Tuesday night to rescind the board's original plan.

"It was not put there to show white supremacy," Commissioner Brown said. "It was there because it's a place of prominence to make sure that we represented the people who died in a war representing our county."

But Gaston County NAACP President Chris Thomason said the monument's prominence is the problem.

"That statue is a symbol of hate," Thomason said. "It has no place on the courthouse grounds, where individuals go looking to seek equal, fair justice."

For years, the statue of the Confederate soldier has caused divided discussion throughout the town—some who say it should stay, others who hope to see it go.

“They’re hurtful,” North Carolina Senator Natasha Marcus said. “They are relics to the Jim Crow past and our past of slavery. They are monuments to the Confederacy which were efforts to keep certain people enslaved for the rest of their lives.”

Senator Marcus also mentioned that as a lawmaker she is doing her part to try and get a current state law overturned which states monuments on public property can not be removed. But in the case of this Confederate monument in Cornelius, it sits on private property and is owned by the Mt. Zion Monument Association. As the owners, they have the final say.