A woman holds her fist up while shouting "no justice, no peace" during May 2020 demonstrations at the historic Market House in downtown Fayetteville in reaction to the death of George Floyd. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Carolina Public Press

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FAYETTEVILLE — A newly redesigned city seal won’t be official quite yet.

The City Council unanimously voted Monday to delay documenting a description of the new design in favor of making slight changes.

In late December, the council incorporated the new seal as an official insignia for the council, to be used for official Fayetteville documents, ceremonies and other uses.

If not delayed, Monday’s vote would have changed an ordinance to alter the official description of the city seal to describe the new one, which shows the image of a star with the text “CITY OF FAYETTEVILLE NORTH CAROLINA” surrounding it.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Jensen made a motion to return the city seal to the design team to possibly remove the “CITY OF” text.

The old seal contained an image of downtown’s Market House, a controversial landmark that saw demonstrations during 2020’s George Floyd protests due to its early history. While the site at the original city center had many uses for political meetings and conducting business transactions, this sometimes included slave trades.

Protests lead to future changes to Market House

In the days after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in late May 2020, protests around the Market House escalated. Two people set fire to the landmark in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy it. Damage from the fire and sprinklers has been repaired, and the arson suspects have been charged.

Protests continued around the landmark throughout the summer of 2020, with calls for police reform. 

Charles Pittman walks through the interior of the historic Market House in Fayetteville on May 30, 2020, pouring the contents of a gas can onto the floor during protests after the death of George Floyd. Pittman later pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in the incident. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Carolina Public Press

In the aftermath of the protests, not only did the council vote to change the seal but considered relocating the Market House entirely last April.

However, the relocation, priced at $2 million, proved too costly for the council to approve, according to minutes from the meeting.

Instead, the council voted 9-1 to direct city officials to make plans for repurposing the landmark.

Council member Courtney Banks-McLaughlin voted against the plan. Earlier in the meeting, she moved to relocate the Market House, but the action failed when no other council member made a required seconding motion.

The repurposing of the landmark entails many options such as widening the occupied space to overtake the center roundabout lane or reclaiming the square entirely.

This enlarged space could accommodate art exhibits that display Black history, according to a presentation to the council. There could also be vendors each month, with a focus on Black farmers, entrepreneurs and artists.

As a part of that vote in April, the council tasked the city’s Human Relations Commission to engage with citizens to determine how to repurpose the Market House.

The council has also sought guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice. A DOJ report is expected to be presented to the council in the coming months.

Currently, the inner traffic circle around the landmark contains a mural that reads “Black Lives Matter End Racism Now.”

Ben Sessoms

Ben Sessoms is a Carolina Public Press staff writer based in Fayetteville. Send an email to bsessoms@carolinapublicpress.org to contact him.