Seven people were arrested in the aftermath of a demonstration on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).
In the early afternoon of Aug. 25, tensions between protesters overflowed after the earlier toppling of the campus’ “Silent Sam” statue by a crowd of UNC students earlier that week. For these students, Silent Sam stood as a symbol of the past Confederacy. To counter protestors who arrived on UNC’s campus the next day, the statue was an iconic landmark on campus for over 100 years.
“We urge you not to attend,” said University officials in a statement released in response to rumors of the protest.
This message was disregarded by both sides of the protest. Those who supported Silent Sam’s removal and protesters sympathetic to the preservation of the figurine quickly butted heads.
Seven arrests were made in total. Out of all of the arrests made, two were related to charges of assault, destruction of property and inciting a riot. Three additional arrests were connected to counts of assault. Remaining arrests were tied to destruction of property and resisting an officer. Fortunately, none of the arrestees had any alignment with UNC Chapel Hill, said the chancellor of the university, Carol L. Folt.
Attendance for the rally was relatively high, tallying over 100 people. The rally itself presented a safety risk to the inhabitants of the area.
“There were very tense moments with the potential for injury and escalation,” said Folt to reporters. At some point, there was an attempt to light a Confederate flag on fire, but police intervened.
The strength of civil unrest has been on a steady climb since the initial overturning of the statue early that week. It was soon followed up with an arrest relating to resisting arrest, and concealing one’s face during a public rally. Four days later, the university’s police charged three people with the toppling of the monument.
A spokesperson for the university’s police force, Randy Young, stated that there may be additional charges pinned against the accused three.
Gifted in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Silent Sam depicts a confederate soldier holding a rifle. The soldier is deemed “silent” because there is no ammunition to fire the weapon. For some, the memorial served as a symbol for white supremacy and bigotry.
Following the demonstration, the North Carolina Historical Commission denied a request to remove three confederate monuments from the State Capitol in Raleigh.
State law requires that any monument that has been “temporarily relocated’ be returned to its original location within a 90-day span. This means that UNC is likely to return Silent Sam to its perch within the next few months.