UNC leaders meet over Silent Sam, agree to have a plan by November

Trustees plan would organize the “disposition and preservation” of controversial monument

Committee members during a meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors (Eamon Queeney / North State Journal)

CHAPEL HILL — In reaction to the toppling of UNC Chapel Hill’s long-standing Confederate soldier statue known as Silent Sam, the UNC System’s Board of Governors and the UNC-CH Board of Trustees held special meetings. After public and private meetings, the system’s Board of Governors directed the UNC-CH Board of Trustees to draw up a plan by Nov. 15 for future “disposition and preservation” of the controversial monument.

“We know that the monument has been divisive for a long time, but what happened on Monday was wrong,” UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt said at the public meeting on Tuesday. “It was absolutely not the solution that we wanted. And we will follow the process, as I’ve been saying. We’re reviewing Monday’s and now Saturday’s demonstrations, and the actions that are appropriate will be taken.”

This comes after police in Chapel Hill arrested seven people Saturday during scuffles at a university campus where demonstrators last week had toppled Silent Sam, a school official said.

Students and protesters surround plinth where the toppled statue of a Confederate soldier nicknamed Silent Sam once stood, on the University of North Carolina campus after a demonstration for its removal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Most of those taken into custody face assault charges, Carly Miller, a spokeswoman for the UNC Chapel Hill, said in an email.

Saturday’s protest followed a larger one last Monday when about 300 demonstrators surrounded the Silent Sam memorial, erected more than a century ago to honor soldiers of the Confederacy killed during the U.S. Civil War, and used ropes to pull it down.

UNC Chapel Hill police charged three people in connection with the toppling of a Confederate soldier statue, an official said on Friday. A police investigation may result in additional arrests, but so far each of the three people faces misdemeanor charges of riot and defacing of a public monument, university police spokesman Randy Young said in an emailed statement.

University of North Carolina police surround the toppled statue of a Confederate soldier nicknamed Silent Sam on the school’s campus after a demonstration for its removal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

The three are not affiliated with the University of North Carolina, Young said.

The UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith reportedly said they plan to hire an outside investigative firm to examine police action that night and why barriers were not erected around the 1913 statue.

This was the latest incident in an orchestrated campaign against Civil War symbols by opponents who say they glorify the South’s legacy of slavery and racism. Supporters view the memorials as emblems of American history.

Video from Saturday that was shared on social media showed competing rallies, with some waving signs with slogans such as “Destroy White Supremacy,” and others holding Confederate flags. At one point, a man in a wide-brimmed hat punched another man in the face and was led away by police.

State law requires that the memorial be placed back on the campus within 90 days, UNC board of Governors member Thom Goolsby said in a video statement on Thursday. He also said the statue had been “torn down by a violent mob.”

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said during a conference call with reporters on Saturday that officials were assessing what the law required in terms of the reinstallation of the statue.

“I’ve said from the start that I think, in the interest of public safety, I would find a better location — a safe, secure location — for the monument,” Folt said, adding that the ideal place would be one where people could discuss the statue.

More than 100 people attended Saturday’s protest, Folt’s office said.

“We all have to recognize that the Confederate monument is a flashpoint for demonstrations and interruptions on campus, and we believe it will continue to be a lightning rod,” Folt said, while also making clear that making clear that Monday’s protest was an unlawful destruction of state property.