Greenville NAACP speaks out against Charlottesville

A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of victim, Heather Heyer, sits in Charlottesville, Va., Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Heyer died when a car rammed into a group of people who were protesting the presence of white supremacists who had gathered in the city for a rally. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

GREENVILLE, S. C. (WSPA) – It’s a debate between heritage and hate, especially in wake of the deadly riots in Charlottesville.

Thursday morning,  the local Greenville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a press conference to address to violence.

“I waited to hold this press conference in hope that our state and federal officials would address this properly, but they did not,” said Rev. J.M. Flemming, the president of the Greenville chapter of the NAACP.

Flemming says the violence in Charlottesville was painful to see although not surprising and says people need to be having more conversations.

“There will be agitation there will always be rioting and hatred in the streets,” Flemming said. “Taking down flags and taking down monuments will not change the minds and hearts of the people in this country. We need to work together.”

He held press conference just hours after President Trump tweeted “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

Dr. Jonathan Sarnoff, a history professor at Limestone College said, “There is no precedent for this. Never has an American president come out and say that these American statues be preserved.”

The NAACP was quite critical of the president during the press conference.

However, other minorities say they’re offended by what these monuments the president wants to preserve represent.

“What are you remembering?” Sarnoff said. “Are you remembering a time when segregation was around, or are you remembering who died in a war, and maybe there’s no way to unlink those.”

Sarnoff says most of the statues weren’t erected after the Civil War because the South had no money at the time. He says confederate groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised money to put statues up around the time Jim Crow and segregation was rampant in the South.

“They’re linked to those very belittling and discriminatory actions,” Sarnoff said.

However, he says there will likely be little change in the state because politicians are aiming to serve the majority of their constituents, who mostly want the monuments to be left untouched.  South Carolina is only about 30 percent African-American

“Say that most African-Americans are against it, unless you get more whites that are against these monuments too, you’re going to see the statues stay up in South Carolina,” Sarnoff said.

However, the NAACP says it’s possible to overcome the numbers stacked against them.

“To come together as one people, we must march,” Flemming said. “We must file lawsuits. We must vote.”

The NAACP is hosting a conference for all the chapters in the state in October. They say tackling the Heritage Act, which blocks the removal of confederate monuments, will be on their agenda.