On Monday night, an estimated crowd of 250 protesters gathered for a rally at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to topple the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam.” Silent Sam was a memorial known as a symbol of racist heritage, and had been standing since 1913.
The crowd had originally gathered across the street from the UNC plaza for a series of speakers at 7 p.m. About two hours into the protest, a group surrounded the statue and took it down. Once on the ground, demonstrators kicked the statue and loudly celebrated.
A crowd of dozens stayed after the statue had been pulled down, chanting, “Whose campus? Our campus!”
Multiple students, past and present, have called the statue a disgrace and an unnecessary racist image. They asked officials to remove it, but UNC leaders claimed state law prevented the school from doing so.
North Carolina is among the handful of Southern states with the most Confederate monuments, and has been a focal point in national debates regarding the protest in Charlottesville last year.
Gov. Roy Cooper has officially called to remove Silent Sam and other rebel symbols on public land. A state panel is set to gather this week in order to discuss Cooper’s request of the removal of other Confederate monuments at the Capitol.
The governor, however, issued a statement on Twitter saying the protesters could have handled the situation a little better.
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. 2/2
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) August 21, 2018
UNC’s Chancellor Carol Folt sent out a message, and while she agreed with the fact that the monument has been divisive for years, she also said that “last night’s actions were unlawful and dangerous,” and that police are assessing the full extent of the damage.
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) August 21, 2018