Residents of the Walnut Tree community and the Walnut Tree Community Association have filed suit against the Town of Walnut Cove.
For over a decade, residents of Walnut Tree have submitted petitions for annexation into the Town of Walnut Cove in an effort to participate in town elections and receive the additional benefits and services available to town residents. In 2016, with assistance from the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the Southern Environmental Law Center, the residents again submitted a formal petition for annexation. The town rejected the annexation in January, by a 3-2 vote.
According to the allegations in the complaint, the town’s repeated denials of these petitions for annexation violate the Equal Protection Clause of the North Carolina Constitution. The town’s decisions on annexation were contrary to the North Carolina annexation statutes and those illegal decisions were based on race.
“We are and have long been a part of the fabric of the Town of Walnut Cove, but, when it comes to voting rights and town services, the town has excluded us,” according to David Hairston, the President of the Walnut Tree Community Association. “At some point, you just have to ask why,” said Hairston. “Is it the color of our skin and not the content of our character that has kept us out all these years?”
One of the Plaintiffs, Ada Linster, moved into Walnut Tree in 1973 with the understanding that the community would soon be incorporated into the Town of Walnut Cove. According to Linster, “It’s not right to sit around and wait on something they promised to us more than forty years ago.”