Protesters Tear Down ‘Silent Sam’ Statue at UNC-Chapel Hill

Duke Removes Robert E. Lee Statue After Vandalism, Others Follow Suit

A Confederate statue was torn down by protesters Monday night as several hundred people gathered on the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus on the eve of the first day of classes.

Protesters had demanded the removal of the statue, known as “Silent Sam”, starting in November at a UNC Board of Trustees listening session.

The statue was erected on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus in 1913 as a memorial to Confederate alumni who died during the Civil War and students who joined the Confederate States Army, according to The News Observer.

Protesters gathered at the school’s Peace and Justice Plaza to listen to speeches before marching to the statue, using ropes to tear it down as the crowd cheered, “Whose campus? Our campus!”

One person was arrested for concealing their face during a public rally and resisting arrest.

Many supporters of the statue’s removal said it is a monument to white supremacy and slave owners. Many opposed to the statue’s removal, some of whom briefly confronted demonstrators Monday night, believe the statue is a symbol of the region’s history that shouldn’t be forgotten, reports USA Today.

Controversy surrounding the statue was set to be discussed for the first time in a state meeting on Wednesday.

UNC Board of Governors Chair Harry Smith said in a recent statement that the board “respects each of the varying opinions within the University community concerning this matter.” He also noted that “neither UNC-Chapel Hill nor the UNC System has the legal authority to unilaterally relocate the Silent Sam statue.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said he empathizes with people’s frustration in the pace of the statue’s removal but that “violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”

Cooper also issued a statement last year calling on lawmakers to repeal a 2015 law that prevents the removal or relocation of monuments so local governments and the state can have the authority to decide.

The statue’s removal comes just over a year after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, intended to unify the far-right wing and “affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests,” according to the group’s Facebook page. One rally protester was killed when a man intentionally drove his car into a crowd.

The rally had in part been organized as a protest against plans to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a Charlottesville park.

Since the rally, an estimated 75 Confederate memorials have been renamed or removed from public places.

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