North Carolina

Silent Sam opponents and supporters square off again at statue’s former site

Supporters and opponents of the Silent Sam statue faced off again late Saturday afternoon on the UNC campus, yelling at each other at the base of the Confederate monument that was toppled last month.

There was a heavy police presence. Eight people were arrested, university officials said in a statement.

Many of the arrests took place during a chaotic scene shrouded in blue smoke, which university officials later said was used by law enforcement to maintain safety and order. Police officers yelled at anti-Silent Sam protesters to disperse shortly before 7 p.m.

Police officers face off with students and protesters after pro-Confederate demonstrators were escorted off campus on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Julia Wall

About an hour and a half earlier, a dozen men and women holding Confederate flags gathered for a vigil in a sectioned-off area near where Silent Sam stood on McCorkle Place. They were outnumbered by about 100 anti-Silent Sam protesters gathered nearby for what they called a “Nazis Suck Potluck and Food Drive.”

Anti-racist protesters organized a potluck and canned food drive when it was rumored that a group from Tennessee, called CSA II, would be visiting Silent Sam on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Julia Wall

Police escorted the Silent Sam backers to the barricaded area as the counter-protesters chanted “Nat Turner, John Brown, anti-racists run this town!” and “(Expletive) your flag!” Those who support Silent Sam stood in a circle and prayed, then began yelling back at the counter-protesters.

A pro-Confederate demonstrator yells at protesters from behind a barricade on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Julia Wall

Things were tense between the two sides. As police then began to lead the Silent Sam supporters away from the area, someone threw a smoke bomb.

Police deployed smoke bombs into a crowd to disperse protesters after making arrests on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Supporters and opponents of the Silent Sam statue faced off again late Saturday afternoon on the UNC campus, yelling at each other at the base where the Confederate monument was toppled last month. Julia Wall

Afterward, some counter-protesters began yelling at the police. Some officers used the handlebars of their bicycles to push the crowd back.

Those opposed to Silent Sam brought canned goods to donate. Police, fearing the cans could be thrown during the protest, collected them in recycling bins. They said they would give them back to the students later.

As protesters gathered for a potluck and canned food drive on McCorkle Place on Saturday, September 8, 2018, UNC Police officers confiscated the cans and placed them in a locked recycling bin. They instructed attendees to place their cans in the bins, and said that they would be returned to them at a later time. Protesters confronted the officers to demand answers as to why they had confiscated the canned goods at all. Julia Wall

That lead to some disagreements between the police and the anti-Silent Sam protesters. “I don’t know why you’ve been told to steal cans from students,” one said to a police officer.

The university later said in a statement that the canned food would be delivered to Heavenly Groceries, the charity chosen by food drive organizers.

UNC-Chapel Hill police officers guard the front of a designated barricade where pro-Confederate demonstrators waved Confederate flags and engaged with protesters from afar on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Julia Wall

Silent Sam was ripped down the night of Aug. 20 during a protest rally at UNC. The following Saturday, Aug. 25, protesters on both sides of the contentious issue clashed on campus, leading to numerous arrests.

Then again on Aug. 30, a nighttime protest on the UNC campus between both sides was held. Additional arrests occurred.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says she wants to find a new campus home for the statue to put it in the appropriate historical context.

“Silent Sam has a place in our history and on our campus where its history can be taught, but not at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university,” Folt wrote last month. “We want to provide opportunities for our students and the broader community to reflect upon and learn from that history. Wide consultation, and lots of listening on campus and beyond, are necessary if we are to move toward peace and healing.”

Campus leaders have until Nov. 15 to come up with a plan that will be presented to the UNC system’s Board of Governors. That leaves just 10 weeks to study the possible relocation of the Confederate monument, including the feasibility of spaces to be considered. Folt said that would involve questions of engineering, safety, cost and educational use.

A group of African American faculty members say the toppled statue does not belong anywhere at UNC. A statement this week signed by 56 professors said: “To reinstall the Confederate monument to any location on UNC’s campus is to herald for the nation and for the world that UNC is not a welcoming place for Black people.”

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