MONROE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Community activists continued to question Union County leaders Monday evening over why they cannot use a public library meeting room, even after a conservative group was allowed to.
NAACP leaders voiced anger and confusion over the matter during the informal public comment portion of Monday night’s Union County Commissioners meeting.
NAACP leaders have twice had their request denied to use the library space for their subcommittee meetings.
Members say these meetings have been held in this space before, but a county policy change has blocked them and other organizations from hosting gatherings there.
“Union County’s current policy only allows for non-government uses if the county hosts, co-hosts, sponsors or co-sponsors the event or activity,” said County Manager Brian Matthews. “In order to meet one of those requirements the county has to take an active role in the event or activity.”
The county, however, did allow for the group Moms for Liberty to host a Constitution Day “story time” event in September, citing it had “educational value.”
Groups like the NAACP, who have not been allowed to host events, argue that by allowing groups like Moms for Liberty that historically support Republicans to meet, the county has created a double standard.
Union County NAACP President Archie Hansley told Queen City News prior to Monday’s county commissioners meeting that he’s noticed bias.
“Based on the information I’ve been given, quite honestly, I have derived at the conclusion that it’s freedom of speech all day,” Hansley said. “Because if you’re not aligned with the values and the and the viewpoints of current government, then ultimately you’re going to get a ‘no.’”
In an email chain obtained by Queen City News, Hansley’s request to reserve a meeting space was followed up with this email from him to Matthews.
Good evening Mr. Matthews,
I wanted to reach out in reference to the conversation between you and Mutize. I am/was under the impression during our last conversation that your question posed below had been answered satisfactorily.
The mission and purpose of the meeting by the sub-committee (Freedom Fund Committee) is to discuss the business of our Annual Freedom Fund Banquet which is to be held on October 28, 2023.
The role requested of the County would be that your office, in addition to approving the facility use request, partner to support the mission of the Union County Branch NAACP which is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. This would include Union County Government purchasing a table and being in attendance to support this event.
Please let me know if there is any additional information I can provide.
Matthews responded and said they could work to co-sponsor an event with the NAACP during Black History Month instead.
Good morning Mr. Hansley
Thank you for providing the additional information and clarification. We have reviewed your request with internal staff and unfortunately, we cannot approve the request to use the library facility for this committee meeting.
Union County’s current policy only allows for non-government uses if the County hosts, co-hosts, sponsors or co-sponsors the event or activity. In order to meet one of those requirements the County has to take an active role in the event or activity. Your meeting is for a sub-committee to plan for an upcoming fundraiser for your Freedom Fund event. This meeting’s purpose is not one that the County can or should take an active role. There is space for rent at our Lakeside Lodge at Cane Creek Park. Rental space does not require the County to host, co-host, sponsor or co-sponsor. The space rents for a minimum of 4 hours for $150. I am happy to provide the contact information for the department that schedules that facility if you are interested in that space.
I realize this is not the answer you wanted to receive. We value the efforts of the NAACP and would be happy to work towards a co-sponsored event during our Black History month at our libraries. We believe we can develop an educational event that the NAACP and the County can partner together to make a success. This will allow us to take an active role in planning, developing the curriculum or information, and holding the event. Please forward the information about the Freedom Fund event costs, etc.
The discussion of the policy was not on Monday’s agenda, however, County Commissioner David Williams addressed those who publicly spoke.
“I think robust opinion and exercise of the first amendment is something to be allotted and embraced regardless of how we might feel about it,” he said. “Keep it coming, let your voices be heard.”