Thursday, October 6, 2022

County quietly removed at least three Hugh MacRae Park signs after they were vandalized

County employees removed signs for Hugh MacRae park and stored them in the park’s maintenance yard after they were apparently vandalized. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Update 2:45 p.m.: After repainting and repairing the vandalized signs, New Hanover County parks staff placed the signs back up Monday afternoon.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — County officials removed at least three Hugh MacRae Park signs, storing them in the park’s operations and maintenance yard.

According to county spokeswoman Jessica Loeper, the signs were vandalized and removed last week. The county plans to put them back up.

Related: Momentum gathering for removal, preservation of Confederate monuments in downtown Wilmington

The county did so without making any official announcement.

“Several signs at Hugh MacRae Park were vandalized and were removed last week by our Parks and Gardens Department after that occurred. This is not a permanent sign removal, and the County Manager’s office authorized the signs to come down temporarily. Our staff is working on fixing these signs to be able to put them back up in the near future,” Loeper wrote in an email Monday morning.

It appears New Hanover County Commissioners were not briefed on the sign’s removal. Reached Monday morning, Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman said she was unaware. Commissioner Woody White also said he was not aware of any plans to take down the signs.

The signs were vandalized last week with the Black Lives Matter acronym, as seen in this June 15 photo. (Port City Daily/Contributed photo)
The signs were vandalized last week with the Black Lives Matter acronym, as seen in this June 15 photo. (Port City Daily/Contributed photo)

A petition calling for a boycott of the park and its renaming has garnered more than 14,000 signatures since early June. The land was donated by Hugh MacRae, a racist co-conspirator of the 1898 massacre that killed dozens of black residents and overthrew the local government, which was comprised of both black and white leaders at the time. It was the nation’s only known coup d’état.

When MacRae donated the land to the county, his bequest specified it to be used for the county’s “white citizens.”

The sign’s removal comes after crowds tore down two Confederate statues in downtown Raleigh Friday night, dragging them through the street and hanging one from a light pole. The other statute was placed in front of the Wake County Courthouse.

Friday was Juneteeth, a national holiday celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the United States in 1865. The following day, Governor Roy Cooper announced the state would remove all Confederate monuments from Capital grounds out of a concern for public safety. In announcing the decision, he said the monument’s dangerous removal Friday could have been prevented if the legislature had repealed its 2015 monument law, which bans the removal of state monuments without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission.

Sunday, the City of Wilmington announced on Twitter a new curfew on and around the two medians that hold the city’s two prominently displayed confederate monuments. The curfew applies to “pedestrian” activity” but foot traffic is still allowed on the sidewalk. It is specifically designed to “prevent incidents around the monuments.”

At least two standing brick pedestals marking the park and a large metal archway entrance sign remain standing as of Monday morning. One of the pedestals includes the following description: “This park was presented by him to residents of New Hanover County to be enjoyed by them. Fellow citizens have dedicated this plaque in memory of a kindly and gracious son of the old south.”

County employees removed signs for Hugh MacRae park and stored them in the park's maintenance yard over the weekend. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
County employees removed signs for Hugh MacRae park and stored them in the park’s maintenance yard after they were vandalized last week. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee Still at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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