Protesters knock down Confederate statue at UNC

A crowd of about 250 protesters on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus knocked over the controversial Silent Sam Confederate statue, according to the university.

Posted: Aug. 22, 2018 6:55 AM
Updated: Aug. 22, 2018 7:02 AM

About 250 protesters on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus knocked over the school's controversial Silent Sam Confederate statue, the university said Tuesday.

The statue is the latest among several Confederate monuments to be removed, and its toppling comes as communities grapple with the legacy of a contentious chapter in American history.

A video and pictures from a student show the statue coming down on Monday as students chant, "I believe that we will win."

Video footage from CNN affiliate WRAL-TV shows protesters putting up poles and banners around the statue during daylight. By nightfall, video from WRAL shows the statue falling and students cheering. Protesters can also be seen kicking and putting dirt on the statue.

In a statement Tuesday morning, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt said she appreciates the actions taken by police to ensure the campus community's safety during Monday's demonstration.

"Last night's actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured," Folt said in an open letter posted on the school's official website. "The police are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage."

The statue came down around 9:20 p.m. ET on the eve of the first day of classes, the university said.

One person was arrested, UNC spokeswoman Kate Luck told CNN.

"The charges are for concealing one's face during a public rally and resisting arrest," Luck said.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's office tweeted a statement saying Cooper has been in contact with local law enforcement and UNC officials about Monday's rally.

"The Governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities," the statement read.

Silent Sam was erected in 1913 to remember the "sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865," according to UNC's website. The United Daughters of the Confederacy gave the statue to the university in 1909.

Students and faculty had called for Silent Sam's removal

The felling of Silent Sam came months after students and some faculty called for removal of the statue. The UNC Board of Trustees held a listening session in November where attendees spoke in support of and against Silent Sam, according to CNN affiliate WTVD-TV.

Maya Little, a second-year PhD student in UNC's History Department, told WTVD-TV in November that the school was spending too much money "to maintain a statue that glorifies the enslavement of my ancestors. That was dedicated by a man who took pleasure in beating a black woman on our campus, that was erected by a group who praised the KKK as protectors of white womanhood. "

Five months later in April, Little told WTVD she put her blood and red ink on the statue. Little is facing expulsion and criminal charges for the incident, WTVD reports.

After Monday's protest, Chancellor Folt said the statue was a longstanding source of division for students, staff and alumni alike.

"The monument has been divisive for years, and its presence has been a source of frustration for many people, not only on our campus, but throughout the community," she said Tuesday morning.

UNC's history department also released an undated statement on Silent Sam.

"The faculty of the Department of History urges the officers of UNC and other state officials to pursue every avenue to remove the 'Silent Sam' monument," the statement read. "From its inception, the monument was exclusionary and offered a highly selective interpretation of the nation's history ... The monument will continue to promote malicious values that have persisted too long on this campus, in this state, and in this nation."

Supporters of Silent Sam, see the statue differently, though. Dorothy Holloway told WTVD in May that she saw Silent Sam as "guarding the college."

"Why take him out? Who has it hurt?" she said.

Gov. Cooper issued a statement last year calling for the removal of more Confederate monuments. He said state lawmakers should repeal a 2015 law that prevents the removal or relocation of monuments so local governments and the state will have the authority to decide.

A state agency has been asked to determine the costs of removing Confederate monuments from state property and find alternative spots for their placement, Cooper said.

Not the first Confederate monuments to come down

Silent Sam was not the first Confederate monument to come down in North Carolina. Last August, authorities said seven people were arrested in connection with the toppling of the Confederate Soldiers Monument during a protest in Durham. The monument came down two days after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left counterprotester Heather Heyer dead.

In Tennessee, crews in December moved two Confederate statues from parks in Memphis after city officials sold the land to a nonprofit.

In New Orleans last spring, the city removed four Civil War-era landmarks.

Baltimore also removed four Confederate monuments. They did so overnight last August.

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