by Thomas Edwards ’20
On the night of Saturday, August 20, there was a student rally protesting the Confederate monument, “Silent Sam” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The protest ended with Silent Sam laying face first in the dirt; only his pedestal remaining.
Silent Sam was donated to the campus by Julian Carr on June 2, 1913 in order to reconnect young Southerners with their history, according to Carr. “The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo-Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South,” said Carr at the dedication of the statue.
Throughout the past year, there were several protests surrounding Silent Sam calling for it to be taken down.
“I attended several rallies last year, and it seemed unlikely that this was actually going to be the moment when they toppled Silent Sam,” said UNC student Gracie McKinley when asked about the event. “Most of my friends, many of whom attended previous rallies, were also shocked, although not upset, that it happened the night before the first day of classes so suddenly.”
The protest began and attracted police presence to the statue. Protestors surrounded the statue as others put up polls and drapes covering the monument entirely. With the use of ropes, the protestors pulled Silent Sam from his pedestal. Soon after, the police had the statue removed from campus.
In the week that has followed the event, tensions in and around the UNC Chapel Hill campus have been high, the height of which resulted in an alt-right counter protest this past Saturday. Waving Confederate flags, about a dozen reactionary protestors surrounded the base of the statue and were met by well over 100 students. The counter protest ended when students chased them off campus, according to a report by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“It was a symbol of racism and I am happy it was taken down, but I am worried that this is just the peak of the iceberg,” said UNC student Robert Piscitelli when asked about the event. “I think it was poorly handled by the state and university and that it should’ve been taken down a lot sooner by them instead of students,” continued Piscitelli.
“We have asked the FBI to assist the police to fully investigate the incident, and they have agreed,” stated Carol Folt, Chancellor of UNC in Chapel Hill in a message to the student body. “While we are grateful that no one, including our police officers, was injured during last night’s protest, we will never condone mob actions.”
The office of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper put out a statement saying, “The Governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustrations, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”
UNC’s student government sent out a statement praising the incident. “Last night, they tore down Silent Sam. They were right to do so.”
There has been an increased police presence throughout campus in the weeks following the event, including state troopers. While an investigation into the event is underway, it has not been made public what the university plans on doing with the remaining base and statue.