CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Charleston-based group is calling on the state to withhold funding from cities and towns that remove monuments, and the push already has support from some lawmakers.
The American Heritage Association made the announcement to a crowd of more than 50 during a news conference Saturday. It was led by association board member Brett Barry.
“To tear down our history is to tear down Charleston itself,” Barry said. “Millions of tourists come to Charleston because it is the United States’ largest outdoor museum. Many of our monuments are multi-million-dollar works of art. City leaders failed to protect our business community [during the riots in May] and are now attacking our historical tourism economy.”
A few state lawmakers joined the association and said they plan to add provisos in the upcoming state budget. If passed, those would allow the state to withhold funds from local governments that remove historical monuments until those cities and towns put them back.
State Rep. Bill Taylor, a Republican, came from Aiken County to support the move.
“Local officials are not allowed to disobey state law,” Taylor said. “If they do, they can suffer the consequences for that, and in government, money talks. It’s time for each of us to stand up, be bold, protect our monuments, and protect our history.”
Taylor said lawmakers will be back in session in September, and he plans to add the provisos then. He said, if added, they would expire after one year with the opportunity to renew them.
“We legislators aim to put teeth in the Heritage Act,” Taylor said.
That act protects some state monuments, markers, and memorials from being removed without legislative approval.
“We must add to our monuments not subtract,” association board member Walter Curry said. “It is not inclusive to remove existing monuments. To be inclusive is to add monuments to reflect our shared American story.”
The group also released new polling they said was done by Pulse Opinion Research which polled 600 likely Republican South Carolina voters.
“85-percent want state law to protect all historical monuments and memorials,” the group’s data stated. “80-percent want mandatory minimum prison sentences for vandals that damage historical monuments.”
The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4-percentage points, they said.