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As a North Carolina town’s Confederate monument came crashing down on Sunday night, Mayor Mondale Robinson recalled learning of his unspoken message as a boy and thinking about it every time he thought of it. passed in front of the marble column: you are supposed to belong to a white man. .

And he thought of forbidding his mother to use the whites-only drinking fountain that was built into this monument, conveying the message of the Confederate flag carved in marble.

A generation later, Robinson – who was elected mayor of Enfield, North Carolina, in May – was overseeing the destruction of this monument and broadcasting it live on Facebook.

“Yes gentlemen!” he shouted as a man driving a tractor pushed the main column of the 10-foot Georgia marble and bronze monument. “Death to the Confederacy over here!”

Six days earlier, the city’s Board of Commissioners had voted 4 to 1 to remove the memorial from Randolph Park. On Sunday, Robinson decided to carry out the decision himself, a decision that could have violated a state law outlining procedures for demolishing such monuments. The irregular removal has plunged the city into the ongoing debate over the place of Confederate statues and memorials in American life.

Mondale Robinson, the mayor of Enfield, North Carolina, livestreamed a wheel loader pushing on a Confederate monument in the city’s Randolph Park on Aug. 21. (Video: Mondale Robinson/Facebook)

City Police Chief James Ayers told the mayor he had asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to investigate, according to Robinson. Ayers told the Washington Post that the bureau was investigating what happened to the monument, but declined to say whether he had requested that investigation. The state office did not respond to a Post Tuesday request for comment, but confirmed to WNCN that an investigation is ongoing.

Robinson told WNCN that even with the specter of a state investigation, he has “no regrets” about toppling the monument.

The monument, built in 1928 to honor servicemen who died in the Civil War and World War I, was sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which helped erect similar markers across the South.

A North Carolina law enacted in 2015 prohibits the removal or destruction of state-owned Confederate monuments or any other “object of memory” if it is on public property. It allows for several exceptions, including where monuments are privately owned or “a building inspector or similar official has determined [an object of remembrance] poses a threat to public safety due to an unsafe or dangerous situation.

The Enfield monument posed such a threat, Robinson said. It could attract white nationalists, especially during one of the events celebrating the city’s role in the Underground Railroad, he said. And as a reminder of slavery and the Jim Crow South, it was daily torment for the majority black town of about 1,850 people he rules.

“You can’t believe in a Constitution that says we’re all equal and also believe in the Confederate constitution,” Robinson told the Post.

Confederate statues: In 2020, a renewed battle in the long American Civil War

A renewed effort to remove Confederate statues, monuments and memorials erupted after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. The push followed similar efforts following a 2015 mass murder at a black church in Charleston , SC, and in 2017 after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

More than 100 Confederate memorials fell after the Charleston massacre, The Post reported. Then several southern states added or tightened restrictions. South Carolina required a two-thirds supermajority of its legislature to approve the removal of a Confederate monument, a bar the state Supreme Court struck down last year, the Associated Press reported. The Virginia legislature initially banned “disturbance” of war memorials until Democrats take control and pass legislation that lets cities and towns decide what to do with them.

Defenders of Confederate statues and monuments say they honor Southern heritage and soldiers who died in action during the Civil War. Those who push for their destruction or removal note that most of the statues and memorials were not erected immediately after the Civil War, but some 50 years later, at the turn of the 20th century, at the time of Jim Crow.

“White Southerners will always say it’s about heritage, and Black Southerners will always say monuments are an insult,” said Karen Cox, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who wrote a book on Confederate monuments. Post in 2020.

Robinson is clear on his position. He said the Confederate flag is “the same as the Nazi flag is for the Jewish home.”

“I don’t understand how some of my white neighbors are trying to tell me that the Confederate flag is about Southern heritage. It is a reconstruction of history. He’s someone as creative as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or Walt Disney,” he said.

When Enfield’s statue fell, Robinson said, he remembered his past but also considered his future – or lack thereof.

“I’m also thinking, ‘Now I can walk out the front door. Now little black kids could come to this park and never have that Confederate flag conversation again,” he said.