Give a listen to a thoughtful city councilman.
Antonio Jones said this so well.
“If we’re really a community trying to heal and trying to work through some issue, I think we’re past the point of it being a controversy,” the freshman councilman was saying on March 28 as the council discussed the pros and cons of removing fencing around the Market House since the historic building was damaged by protesters on May 30, 2020. “If we're trying to heal, that fence, to me, is somewhat symbolic of it’s still divisive.”
And it is time, he said, for the fencing to come down.
“I say this from the depths of my heart, at some point we have to trust the community to do the right thing, just like some would trust them to do the wrong thing,” Jones told Mayor Mitch Colvin and his fellow council members. “I'm saying at some point you have to turn that curve and say, ‘I’m going to trust the community to do the right thing.’”
Jones was not alone this night.
Council members Larry Wright, D.J. Haire and Shakeyla Ingram were right there with Jones.
“We just don’t want it to be controversial because of the climate we’re in,” Wright said. “We want to make it a better place for everybody.”
The mayor and council members Kathy Keefe Jensen, Johnny Dawkins, Chris Davis, Yvonne Kinston, Jones, Haire, Wright and Ingram voted to remove the fencing around the Market House, and it is coming down April 15. Courtney Banks-McLaughlin was in opposition.
May 30, 2020
That was a horrific night on May 30, 2020, when protesters gathered at the Market House over the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Protesters led by provocateurs took their anger out by smashing windows and eventually setting the stairwell on fire as city police did nothing to intervene.
The Sunday morning after, the Market House was bruised and beaten, and the preponderance of a community was in dismay and shock at what had transpired the night before, as well as the days before when protesters had commandeered the structure in protest replete with pizza gatherings and fish fries.
The final cost of repairs - $84,833, according to a city spokeswoman. That cost includes, according to the city, repairing and rebuilding 10 windows; replacement of attic insulation; removal and replacement of wood flooring, sub-flooring and framing; ceiling repairs; interior wall painting, ceiling and trim; repairs of a fire suppression system; and repairs and replacement of balcony spindles and railings.
“It is a sticky, sticky subject,” Haire was saying on March 28 about the Market House. “Until we get some changes, it probably always will be.”
Haire is a 10-term councilman, and he has become a sage voice of reason for the council. And Haire is correct in his assessment of Market House history. It has been a point of controversy in the African-American community because slaves were once sold there.
Today, city leaders are working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission in an effort to repurpose the Market House as a cultural education center that will acknowledge the past, but more important, acknowledge future equality for all, no matter the color of anyone’s skin – man, woman or child.
Ingram offered a sound perspective on her view of what the Market House means to some as the downtown centerpiece.
“I go back to what the Market House was before all this happened,” she told the council. “The Market House was a meeting spot, where people would meet up to go to lunch together, people would sit and can conversate with each other.”
Peaceful protests welcome
Now, the city landmark is restored.
We’ll be able to see through the arches as we drive past. Brides-to-be can bring their wedding planners for photographers to snap their big day for wedding photo albums. High school kids can pose in tuxedos and gowns for junior-senior proms. And local photographers can capture a sunrise through those arches, too.
And, if you wish to exercise your First Amendment right of free speech, you are welcome as well. Protest the war in Ukraine there. You have a place. If you see an injustice, the Market House can be a place for you to bring your voice.
“It’s also a place of protest,” Wright said, “where you can go and send a message to the city and the rest of the world.”
Yes, Haire agreed.
“We can’t always prohibit people from wanting to use the Market House as a protest area,” Haire said, “or any location in our city.”
But peacefully, this council implores.
Damage and unlawful conduct will not be tolerated.
“No tolerating vandalism or other things,” City Manager Doug Hewett was saying Wednesday. “We have not finalized all guidelines, but it’s like all other parks (in the city), no camping or sleeping.”
CityView TODAY reached out by email to Police Chief Gina Hawkins about how her department will handle those who become unruly or might cause disruptions or damage at the Market House. CityView TODAY also reached out by email to City Attorney Karen McDonald.
That’s disturbing not to hear from either one and particularly on the part of the police chief after what happened on May 30, 2020, to the Market House.
CityView TODAY also reached out by email to the mayor on Wednesday, and Colvin promised to respond. He never responded. That, too, is disappointing.
Hours for the Market House will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Hewett says, or dawn to dusk.
May the Market House anew become a place for a community to heal and bond in unity with one another for all of us to be the best of ourselves. Generations to come will remember us for our resolve.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.