Barriers placed around 'Silent Sam' statue ahead of planned rally at UNC

Posted August 21
Updated August 22

— Fliers circulating on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus indicate that a rally is planned for 7 p.m. at the university's "Silent Sam" Confederate statue. Meanwhile, crews started setting up barriers around the statue on Tuesday morning.

The reason for the barriers is still unclear, but Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday told UNC system officials that they have the authority to take immediate action if they believe the statue is posing a risk to public safety.

"If the University and its leadership believe such a dangerous condition is on campus, then the law gives it the authority to address those concerns. State law enforcement and emergency officials remain available to help and support the University as it navigates this process," Cooper wrote.

A spokesperson for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a response on Tuesday, saying the university does not legally have authority to remove the statue from campus unless a building inspector concludes physical disrepair of the statue poses a threat to public safety.

"We continue to believe that removing the Confederate Monument is in the best interest of the safety of our campus, but the university can act only in accordance with the laws of the state of North Carolina. As we continue to seek clear guidance and legal authority to act, we ask for your patience and cooperation to help us maintain as safe an environment as we possibly can," the statement read.

Barrier placed around UNC 'Silent Sam' statue

Rally planned at Silent Sam statue

Cooper's comments came in response to a letter sent Monday by UNC system officials expressing fear the statue, which has been the subject of debate for several years and has previously been vandalized, could spark protests that could lead to injury or property damage.

“Chancellor [Carol] Folt has notified us that the law enforcement staff at UNC-Chapel Hill believe that it is only a matter of time before an attempt is made to pull down Silent Sam in much the same manner we saw in Durham,” the letter said. “Based on our interactions with state and local law enforcement, including the State Bureau of Investigation, an attempt may occur at any time.”

A crowd of protesters last week toppled a Confederate statue outside the former Durham County courthouse. Eight people face criminal charges in the case.

UNC system officials said that, because Silent Sam is in a prominent location on the Chapel Hill campus – near residence halls, classrooms and the financial aid building – they worry that protests that would likely draw outside groups could injure a student or significantly disrupt university operations.

Barrier placed around UNC 'Silent Sam' statue

The letter to Cooper comes on the same day Folt issued a statement to students, warning them about the potential Tuesday evening rally at the Silent Sam monument.

In the statement, Folt said that, while university officials realize the event may garner interest on campus, students are encouraged not to attend for their own safety.

“We also know that many in our community have expressed concerns about their safety on and around the campus during such events. And we know that the outside groups who may attend such a rally may be more interested in promoting discord and violence to advance their own agendas than engaging in a constructive and peaceful protest,” Folt said in the statement.

In the letter to Cooper, system officials said they believe there is a “strong likelihood” the university will require substantial law enforcement and emergency services support because of ongoing safety and security threats surrounding the statue.

Barrier placed around UNC 'Silent Sam' statue

UNC-Chapel Hill is the only campus in the UNC system that has a Confederate monument on its property. Last week, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger requested that the university petition the North Carolina Historical Commission to immediately remove Silent Sam from campus “in the interest of public safety.”


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  • Deborah Turner Aug 23, 2:23 p.m.
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    UNC is TRASH......

  • William Sherman Aug 22, 11:35 p.m.
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    Answer is simple--put over whelning law enforcement at the statue--give them permission to maintain order by any means necessary.--and do it!

  • David McCabe Aug 22, 9:27 p.m.
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    She's proving that the only point you have is the one on the top of your head...

  • Tom Baker Aug 22, 6:49 p.m.
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    You are proving my point.

  • Amy Whaley Aug 22, 6:30 p.m.
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    You got your history from those who started The War of Northern Aggression? Slavery was a part of the economy then, North and South. Only a small % of Americans owned slaves and some of those where blacks who owned slaves. To act as if the war was some moral high ground of the union to free slaves is ludicrous. Even Lincoln said it was over taxes. "My policy sought only to collect the Revenue (a 40 percent federal sales tax on imports to Southern States under the Morrill Tariff Act of 1861)." reads paragraph 5 of Lincoln's First Message to the U.S. Congress, penned July 4, 1861.

    "I have no purpose, directly or in-directly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so," Lincoln said it his first inaugural on March 4 of the same year.

  • Joe Eastland Aug 22, 5:30 p.m.
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    I'm white, and I'm offended today by what is going on today, reverse discrimination.

    Take down the statues. Then let's remove BET (Black Entertainment Television) and ALL racist (defined as where the color of your skin is used to discriminate against ALL races) objects and institutions.

    Fair? I believe so!

  • Tom Baker Aug 22, 5:21 p.m.
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    You would actually have credibility that the discussion is about history, if you acknowledged that the history portrait in these statues is a very selective history. This selective history as much as the general history narrative peddled in the South is written by white people for white people. Ergo, the constant victim hood sentiment. It is time to go beyond that state and acknowledge the whole history of the South. It is not pretty and definitely not glorious, but it is history.

  • Scott Patterson Aug 22, 4:47 p.m.
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    No written language is used for history... statues are not.

  • cyndilu2003 Aug 22, 4:41 p.m.

    Trying to get rid of history won't change anything. IT happen. Everyone has to take the GOOD and BAD from History and LEARN from it. Abolishing the BAD... taking down statues , removing flags, changing education and rewriting history and how it happen and Why it happen And only remembering bits and pieces ( not the ENTIRE HISTORY) will lead to something bad. If we forget the history. We will forget The lessons learned from the GOOD and BAD and Everything in between .. IMPORTANT Things will be forgotten and HISTORY WILL REPEAT ITSELF. The civil war happen. It's apart of our history. What will be next? The Decleration Of Independence.. IT IS APART OF OUR HISTORY! But because a handful of those who signed the decleration were plantation owners and slave owners we change it or take only what we want from it and throw away the rest or remove it all together? History is OUR history. IT HAPPEN! We learn from ALL of it... and NOT repeat it. This needs to stop!

  • Charles Foster Aug 22, 4:30 p.m.
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    Ignorance & criminal behavior could spark protests that could lead to injury or property damage.