A Black mayor is under investigation after he personally tore down a Confederate monument in his town of Enfield, North Carolina, however, since the monument’s removal, a white nationalist group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan is pushing back with threatening flyers.
“It is ridiculous to believe that statue should stand in a park that is 90 plus percent Black,” said Enfield Mayor Mondale Robinson, who is under state investigation.
Confederate statues and monuments have been taken down all across the country ever since the 2020 racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd, and the trend continues in the small town of Enfield is located within Halifax County. Although town commissioners approved a measure to remove the Confederate monument within its jurisdiction, Robinson could face criminal charges for taking matters into his own hands.
“The park is less than a block away from my house so every time I leave my house and look to the right, I’m forced to see this Confederate monument,” Robinson said.
Robinson, 43, does not know why his town’s police chief asked for the North Carolina Bureau of State Investigations to investigate his hands-on approach to removing a 94-year-old Confederate monument.
“It’s been there since 1928 and it’ll never see another Monday or Tuesday in Enfield, North Carolina as a monument,” Robinson said.
Robinson, a progressive and founder of the Black Male Voter Project, was elected mayor of Enfield, North Carolina on May 17, 2022. Enfield has about 2,350 residents, 85 percent of them Black. Robinson said he ran for mayor because he wanted to be a voice for Black residents who were facing threats from gentrification. Another concern of his is the threat of white nationalists unsettling his majority-Black town by rallying behind a Confederate monument in a town park.
In early August, Enfield town commissioners voted 4 to 1 to remove the monument, and Robinson assured them it would not cost the town a dime.
“Under my leadership, I did a presentation on what the Confederate meant and the reason the Southern states succeeded from the Union, and there was some discussion, we have one Republican who’s white on our board, his name is Ken Holmes. He’s a commissioner and was the only dissenting vote, and he said getting rid of the statue would cost the town too much, so I said, ‘Don’t worry about that, I’ll take care of it. I’ve already found somebody, once I tear it down to remove it and get rid of it for us,’” Robinson said.
Robinson says he spent a day on Aug. 21, 2022, trying to tear the monument down and recorded himself doing it on Facebook Live.
“I took my little Craftsman hammer literally and went out there and started breaking it apart,” Robinson said. “Someone with a small tractor came over and knocked it down and in ten minutes, what was a hundred-year-old monument owed to white supremacy, fell in Enfield, North Carolina,” he continued.
Robinson’s efforts caught the attention of the Enfield Police Chief, James Ayers, and Andrew Murray, district attorney for North Carolina’s 42nd Prosecutorial District, who requested the state investigate.
“The police chief in our town, he actually called the SBI himself to investigate but I don’t know what they’re investigating,” Robinson said.
Atlanta Black Star sought a response from Enfield Police Chief Ayers for comment but did not hear back.
Atlanta Black Star received a statement from the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation which says, “On Sunday, August 21, 2022, the SBI received requests from the Enfield Police Chief and District Attorney to investigate property damage at a park in Enfield. The investigation remains ongoing. Once the investigation is complete, the case file will be submitted to the DA for review. The DA will determine whether criminal charges are appropriate, not the SBI.”
In 2015, North Carolina lawmakers passed a law declaring monuments, memorials and works of art owned by the state may not be removed, relocated or altered without approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Robinson cites the Confederate monument posed a safety risk which is a provision in the law. The mayor further adds that the monument was owned by the town of Enfield.
“Rather than be reactive for when Enfield becomes a small version of Charlottesville, we took away that statue and got rid of it,” Robinson said.
Since Robinson’s removal of the Confederate monument, he says on Aug. 27, a flyer began circulation saying, “white people of Enfield! You have let a ‘n—-r’ tyrant stomp on your white heritage! What will you do? Don’t let them get away with anything.” The flyer indicates Loyal White Knights, one of the largest and most active Klan groups in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is behind the flyer.
Despite the ongoing investigation, Robinson stands by his decision to personally remove the Confederate monument and feels he is within the law in doing so. He also believes its removal is a good move for the majority-Black town in which he received 76 percent of the vote to beat out an incumbent mayor this past spring.
“Anyone who can’t see the relationship between Black people barking or hating the Confederacy is blind and trying to perpetuate white supremacy,” Robinson said.