Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina comes across as a nice man, well-mannered, calm, the kind of man you would want as a neighbor and, yes, as a friend. He seems unthreatening in how he speaks, always with a very slight but perceptible eastern North Carolina accent. In short, he radiates a down home “you can trust me” charm.
Except for one thing: it’s all a façade, false, a mask hiding a far darker side of his character. His likable demeanor disguises an individual—North Carolina’s chief executive officer—who has been largely responsible for giving the green light to looting, mob violence, and the blatant destruction of symbols and artifacts of our history.
His praxis is not one of openly or vocally inciting the riots and violence; no, that would be too obvious and likely to produce a backlash. Rather, through his actions—and failure to act—he has purposefully enabled those riots and that violence. He has used the initially ostensibly peaceful demonstrations as means to achieve his purposes, purposes which he has had all along.
Whether he acts (or fails to act) out of conviction, or through the advice of his small extremist “woke” social justice warrior constituency, the result is the same. North Carolina’s elected chief defender and protector of our laws and Constitution has become its chief violator, if only in a remote sense and without his guilty fingerprints.
Over the past week or so a mob of rioters and looters rampaged through Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital city. Stores were looted, graffiti were sprayed on monuments, and lawlessness reigned. But you see Raleigh has a “woke” leftist mayor Mary Ann Baldwin, and like so many other mayors in leftist-controlled cities across the nation, her response was to let the mob do its business under the theory: “let them destroy property, that’s acceptable, but we don’t want to ‘hurt’ the rioters physically.” In other words, the capital police stood down as the rioters rampaged through the city…and millions of dollars of private property were destroyed, an outrage against the very raison d’etre of our law enforcement, the reason they exist, which is not only to protect individuals but also private and public property. And is it not legitimate to say, like other leftist mayors, that Baldwin has a certain real sympathy for the goals and objectives of the rioters?
But even worse came over the long weekend from Friday, June 19 to Sunday, June 21, 2020. The mob had taken aim at the historical monuments on Capitol Square. They had already defaced them, but now their object—clearly stated on Twitter and Instagram for anyone to read, including our elected leaders and law enforcement, both state and municipal—was to topple them and to begin with the three iconic Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds: the statue of Pvt. Henry Wyatt—the first Confederate soldier killed in the War Between the States, the monument honoring the women and children of the Confederacy, and lastly, the giant and artistically distinctive Confederate obelisk facing Hillsborough Street.
At first on Friday night they managed to bring down two lesser statues perched aside the tall Confederate monument. The police did nothing, in fact, stood down with the complicity of Mayor Baldwin and the governor. Then came the Wyatt and Women of the Confederacy monuments. At first state capital police resisted…but then, they too were told to stand down.
And at that point Governor Cooper, in one of those moments that assuredly required some pre-planning on his part, intervened and issued an order: all Confederate monuments, he decreed, would be taken down because they were “dangers to public safety.” It was a logical succession, something that could be presented to the public as the culmination of a rational process, to “protect” the raging rioters who might somehow “hurt” themselves if they continued to attempt to destroy state property! (After all when the mob felled a monument recently in Portsmouth, Virginia, it actually landed on one of the rioters. We can’t have that happening!)
But in so doing, in enabling the rioters to ultimately succeed in their rampaging fury, Cooper flagrantly violated the laws of the state of North Carolina. He invited the mob to destroy public property without the slightest hindrance, he encouraged them. And thus he fulfilled their deepest desires.
And he did so in spite of—in open violation of—the Heritage Protection Act [Monuments Protection Act] of 2015 [G.S. § 100-2.1] which specifically enjoined and forbade the removal of North Carolina’s historic monuments by any level of government authority. Indeed, Cooper through his Department of Administration had attempted previously, in the summer of 2018, to have those three Confederate monuments at the State Capitol removed, under the very narrow exceptions allowed by the Monuments Law. As required by that statute, he had gone before the North Carolina Historical Commission (empowered in law to rule on such cases) using the very same reasoning that he was to use about “public safety” on June 19-21, 2020.
But back on August 22, 2018, the Historical Commission, composed of noted attorneys and historians, several named by Cooper himself, had denied his appeal by a vote of 9 to 2, in effect declaring that the law’s use of the term “public safety” as an exception had nothing to do at all with supposed danger to demonstrators (as Cooper claimed), but meant internal and structural weaknesses or decay within the monuments themselves. External threats to the monuments and whatever harm that might come from those threats were not included as a reason or exception for removing a monument. Those threats to public safety must be dealt with by law enforcement—by the required protection of public property by our constituted constabulary.
Thus, what Cooper did was not only a violation of the Monuments Protection Law, but also a violation of the specific and exact legal ruling of his own North Carolina Historical Commission. Denied his request in August 2018, he manipulated and used the current riots on the State Capitol Square—telling the police to stand down so that violence could occur—to achieve his ultimate goal: removal of the monuments in the most underhanded manner, while indicating to everyone (in particular, to his most fanatical and “woke” followers) that he was taking this action for the sake of “public safety” and “against racism” that those monuments to once-living and breathing men, women and children—citizens of North Carolina—supposedly represent.
Confirmation of this underhanded praxis comes from various high-placed sources, both in law enforcement and in government. And not only that, for Cooper has essentially informed smaller municipalities around the state that should riots occur in their communities, should the mob visit them, he will not allow the North Carolina National Guard to assist them to protect their communities or their history…if a noisy bunch of Antifa/Black Lives Matter thugs try to take down YOUR monuments, basically the governor is telling the citizens of the Tar Heel State: “You are on your own. My tiny radical extremist constituency rules, and I will allow—permit—even encourage—them to destroy artifacts of our history and culture.” Public opinion, which in every poll is two-thirds against removing those monuments, be damned.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, who will oppose Cooper is this falls’ election, has spoken out in condemnation of what is happening and what Cooper is enabling (June 20, 2020):
"North Carolinians should be shocked by the utter lawlessness that occurred in downtown Raleigh once again last night, this time on the State Capitol grounds. While Gov. Cooper shifted blame when our cities were looted and buildings were damaged, he has no excuses this time. Last night’s destruction occurred on state property, right next to his office. It is clear that Gov. Cooper is either incapable of upholding law and order, or worse, encouraging this behavior. The essence of a free society is the rule of law. When our elected leaders turn a blind eye to chaos, destruction, and disorder, society begins to unravel."
It is important that Forest get this message out, via his campaign appearances and via media (TV ads). It is a winning message if he will use it, and he must be strongly encouraged to do so.
All the while the revolution advances—in Oregon and California it is George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Francis Scott Key, their monuments toppled. Columbus is now down in various cities. Even the slightest verbal demurrer online is banned as “racist.” You cannot dissent from the new narrative and agenda. And too many of those on our side run for the tall grass, fearful of being called racist.
When the mob comes for the statues of George Washington on North Carolina’s State Capitol grounds—when the effort is to topple monuments to Charles B. Aycock and Zebulon Vance, or to displace North Carolina’s monument to its three presidents (Jackson, Polk, and Johnson), what will Cooper do? By his own irrepressible logic he must give in; there is no other course now that he has implicitly (if not explicitly) thrown his lot in with the new Taliban fanatical destroyers. They desire the total and complete erasing of our heritage and culture. Cooper has invited them in, encouraged them, and thinks he used them. But in fact they have used him, and they will bring him down into the very feculent sewer of anarchic devastation that they create and zealously push.
He deserves nothing better.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.