Mathews supervisors vote to hold meetings at gun-free high school auditorium after letter from local NAACP

Local Politics

OCALA, FL – AUGUST 19: A Confederate monument featuring a statue of a Confederate soldier is seen at the Ocala Veterans Park in the midst of a national controversy over whether Confederate symbols should be removed from public display on August 19, 2017 in Ocala, Florida. The issue is at the heart of a debate about race in America and a recent protest in Charlottesville, VA turned deadly as white-supremacists clashed with counter-demonstrators over a confederate statue. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MATHEWS COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — A letter from a local chapter of the NAACP voicing concerns over contention at Mathews County Board of Supervisors meetings has prompted the body to move its regular meetings to a different venue.

Last month, the Mathews County Board of Supervisors voted to move its meetings back to the historic courthouse.

However, after receiving a letter from the Mathews branch of the NAACP, supervisors voted Tuesday to move the meetings, meaning they will now be held at the Harry M. Ward Auditorium in Mathews High School.

Guns are not allowed on school property.

Mathews County Supervisor Paul Hudgins said the vote was 3-2, and he was one of those in opposition.

10 On Your Side obtained the June 17 letter from the Mathews NAACP through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In the letter, President Edith Turner said the branch’s members were concerned about the decision to move the meetings back to the historic courthouse — where the county’s Confederate monument is also located — because of recent “expression of hateful vitriol” against board members and county staff.

Turner said some people who have attended meetings regularly have been disruptive and disrespectful. Some of them are in favor of preserving the Confederate statue at the historic courthouse and are accompanied by those who display Confederate flag decals on their vehicles.

Turner said some people find that behavior intimidating.

Turner continued: “People who want to attend meetings of the Board of Supervisors can be more assured of their safety at the high school venue, because guns are not allowed on school property. Further, members of the board and staff are able to enter and exit the high school in a secure location. That is not the case at the historic courthouse.”

The letter calls the historic courthouse’s location adjacent to the Confederate monument “unfriendly to African Americans” and others who support civil rights.

There is also limited seating at the historic courthouse, and people will therefore sometimes congregate outside the door if inside seating is occupied.

“The potential for violence is heightened by the current debate over the location of the Confederate statue leading up to the referendum in November,” Turner wrote.

In September, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have a voter referendum in November 2021 to determine the future of the Confederate monument.

Other localities in Virginia have already decided to remove or relocate their Confederate monuments, which have been noted as symbols of racial oppression.

The letter from Turner asked the board to hold meetings in a gun-free venue until the November election passes.

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