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Push to Remove UNC Statue Hits Roadblock

Students and community members gather to protest a statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus that recognizes alumni who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Credit: Manzoor Cheema
Students and community members gather to protest a statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus that recognizes alumni who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Credit: Manzoor Cheema
October 28, 2015

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The debate surrounding a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill statue ironically called Silent Sam is anything but silent.

The statue of a Confederate soldier was erected on the campus more than 100 years ago to recognize alumni who died in the Civil War. The statue has been vandalized multiple times and there is a push to have it removed. UNC spokesman Jim Gregory said that is not so simple because of a change in state law passed this year.

"State law would be needed to remove the monument or relocate it to a site that, as the law says, is not of similar prominence," he said, "so it bans us from removing or moving the monument from the grounds."

This weekend, opposing groups gathered at the monument - with people from Alamance and Orange counties speaking out in support of Silent Sam staying put and defending the Confederate flag. At the same time, a group of students and community members spoke out against what many consider a racist statue.

Leah Osae is a UNC student who attended the rally to remove the monument. She and others want lawmakers to take action because of what the statue symbolizes to them.

"The next step is to take Sam down," she said, "and to abolish all racism everywhere."

Ph.D. student Nathan Swanson, who also attended the rally, said the controversy surrounding the statue has to do with a larger issue of being inclusive to all cultures on campus.

"It's important to me that the universities that we work in, especially those that are historically white institutions, will affirm black life," he said.

Senate Bill 22, the law prohibiting the removal of statues and memorials from public property without approval from the Legislature, was passed just before South Carolina voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC