A controversial Confederate monument on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus was toppled by a crowd of over 250 protesters last night, August 20.
Discontented by the university’s protection of the highly disputed statue, “Silent Sam,” the group of students, faculty, and local residents pulled the statue off its platform with a rope, throwing dirt on the fallen figure. The night before the first day of fall classes, participants cheered when the statue fell, shouting, “Whose campus? Our campus!”
The bronze statue was centrally located in the university’s upper quad. Hoisted in 1913, was originally funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy to commemorate UNC students who left the university to fight as Confederate soldiers in the Civil War.
Silent Sam was erected in 1913, 48 years after the end of the Civil War. For comparison, that’s like if neo-nazis had erected a statue to Hitler in 1993.
— Jacob Remes (@jacremes) August 21, 2018
Disagreements surrounding the statue have been rampant throughout decades preceding last nights events. The RaleighNews & Observer reported that UNC spent $390,000 last year on security for the statue.
Regarding the #SilentSam statue removal, here is a letter from 53 years ago to the @dailytarheel, March 17, 1965, asking for its removal. Author also repudiates the “gaudy Confederate flag” flying above the Alabama state capitol. That survived until 2015.
— Jack M Silverstein (@readjack) August 21, 2018
The protest was organized in solidarity with UNC doctoral student Maya Little, an organizer who faces a criminal trial and honor court trial at UNC for covering Silent Sam in red paint and her own blood this April.
The Daily Tar Heel, an independent newspaper at UNC, reported that Little was present at yesterday’s action. She addressed the crowd: “It’s time to build monuments to honor those who have been murdered by white supremacy. It’s time to tear down Silent Sam. It’s time to tear down UNC’s institutional white supremacy.” Little suggested a memorial to honor James Lewis Cates, a 22-year-old Black man who was murdered on the UNC campus in 1971.
UNC Grad student Jerry Wilson said, “I also encourage you to consider the psychological violence enacted upon Black students and it’s physical manifestations.”
Originally held off-campus, participants marched to the UNC Campus after two hours of protesting and activists’ speeches. They were met with police presence surrounding the statue.
Silent Sam is down. pic.twitter.com/ATL8bmCr20
— The Daily Tar Heel (@dailytarheel) August 21, 2018
The News & Observer and Daily Tar Heel reported counter-protesters came wearing Confederate flag regalia to argue with activists about the intentions of the statue.
The statue, once felled, was hauled into a truck and shipped to an undisclosed location.
Dwayne Dixon, a professor of Asian studies at UNC, told The Daily Tar Heel after the statue was toppled, “I mean, it feels biblical. It’s thundering and starting to rain. It’s almost like heaven is trying to wash away the soiled, contaminated remains.”
In its absence, a stand recognizing the Daughters of the Confederacy remains.
Utterly distracted from today’s task of writing about discomfort feminism, but also thinking about the pedestal that remains and how it showcases white women’s foundational role in sustaining white supremacy. pic.twitter.com/nKBekDPgWn
— Sara Smith (@GeogSara) August 21, 2018
In the past, the University has defended its decision to maintain the statue based on legislation signed by former Republican Governor Pat McCrory. The bill prohibited the dismantling of any public “object of remembrance” that “commemorates an event, a person or military service that is part of North Carolina’s history.” Courthouse News reports that current Democratic Governor Roy Cooper had called for removing Silent Sam and other Confederate symbols on public land.
The University has condemned the action and says further investigations will ensue.
A statement about the Confederate Monument at UNC-Chapel Hill pic.twitter.com/7D45yiAAeb
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) August 21, 2018
North Carolina State Senator Valerie Foushee posted a statement, signed by herself, Representative Verla Insko, and Representative Graig Meyer:
It was past time for Silent Sam to be moved from a place of honor on the campus of the University of the People. It is unfortunate that state legislators chose not to hear and pass the bill we filed earlier this year to move the monument to an indoor site where it would stand as an [sic] reminder of the bitter racial struggle that continues to burden our country.
The North Carolina Historical Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider a request made by Governor Cooper to move three Confederate monuments from the old Capitol Grounds to a Civil War battlefield in Johnston County.
Tonight, for the first time in the 13 years the Unsung Founders Memorial has been in Silent Sam’s shadow, the shadow will be gone and the 300 bronze figures that hold it up will be standing taller than Sam. #GDTBATH pic.twitter.com/SGoHIQBWmq
— Todd Greene (@ToddGreene40) August 21, 2018
Happy to defend pro bono anyone charged for this ?? https://t.co/HH300nBXPg
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) August 21, 2018
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