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Confederate Monument's Return to UNC Campus Sparks Outcry

UNC administrators have recommended a $5.3 million history center on campus to house the monument nicknamed Silent Sam, with heightened security and an annual operating budget of $800,000. (University of North Carolina)
UNC administrators have recommended a $5.3 million history center on campus to house the monument nicknamed Silent Sam, with heightened security and an annual operating budget of $800,000. (University of North Carolina)
December 10, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Advocates and opponents of the Silent Sam statue are making their voices heard after the University of North Carolina proposed a more than $5 million plan to restore the Confederate-era monument in a new museum on its campus.

Meanwhile, students arrested for protesting the statue are facing court dates this month.

Maya Little, a UNC graduate student, was arrested on charges of smearing her blood on the statue just before it was toppled in August. She was arrested again during last week's anti-Sam protests.

Little is vowing to fight the return of what she maintains to be a symbol of racism.

"I literally put my blood and red ink on the statue, because the statue and all statues like it are already drenched in black blood," she states.

Little referenced the 1913 monument dedication, where philanthropist Julian Carr was reported as saying, "I horse-whipped a Negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds," and called it his "pleasing duty."

Last week, Little was charged with inciting a riot and assaulting a police officer after leading a protest against the university's plan.

The students say they have been publicly threatened and assaulted with little support from UNC.

On the UNC Board of Governors, attorney Thom Goolsby swiftly took to Facebook to criticize the UNC Board of Trustees for pandering to protestors. The former state senator called the decision not to restore the statue in its current location "cowardice" and says the plan to relocate it is illegal. He cites a 2015 state law that protects monuments.

"UNC has no choice but to reinstall Silent Sam or allow mob rule," Goolsby said.

In a letter to the trustees, Goolsby also recommends felony charges for anti-Sam protesters, whom he maintains are mostly outside agitators, rather than students.

Defend UNC, a newly formed anti-racism student group, challenged Goolsby's statement.

Spokeswoman Lindsay Ayling says students have faced violence during the protests and should see protection from law enforcement rather than arrests.

She worries the campus is becoming unsafe for peaceful student demonstrations.

"The administration has not even acknowledged that Nazis have been present on our campus,” she states. “They refer to Nazis and white supremacists solely as 'Silent Sam supporters,' and have only issued a vague statement saying if anyone feels threatened, they should call the police."

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued a statement on the "intense emotion, pain, frustration and anger that's being felt." She said the university will focus on safety, adding, "Our students and our faculty deserve no less."

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC