Local News

'Silent Sam' pedestal remains empty, but its future is unclear

Posted August 21, 2018 3:37 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2018 6:47 p.m. EDT

— Nearly 24 hours after a large group of protesters assembled on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, the pedestal where the controversial "Silent Sam" statue once stood remains empty.

Many protesters said the moment the Confederate statue hit the ground was the moment they've been fighting for.

Update: Silent Sam statue toppled

"It was honestly the craziest, most exciting experience of my life," said freshman Susannah Shoemake.

As students headed out on the first day of class, many stopped by the empty pedestal to see it for themselves.

"I am happy that is it gone. I am so glad. It had no place being here in the first place," said Tyoshia Morgan, a freshman.

"I believe that it should've been put in a museum, but I'm conflicted in the sense that it shouldn't have happened in the way it did," junior Stanley Sun said.

Noel Fritsch, a former UNC-Chapel Hill student, disagreed.

"It's sad that the young folks of today want to destroy some of the history," he said.

'Silent Sam' is down

Protesters on Monday night first sectioned off the area around the controversial statue with large banners, blocking it from view. Throughout the course of the evening, people in the crowd speculated about what might be going on behind the banners, but no one confessed to knowing the plan.

At one point, there were tense moments between protesters and police officers. Protesters deployed smoke canisters, but no one was injured.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday night, saying that he "understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change … but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities."

On Tuesday, other North Carolina leaders chimed in to blast the actions of those who brought the statue down.

"Many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs, and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won’t heal those wounds. Only a civil society that adheres to the rule of law can heal these wounds and politicians – from the governor down to the local district attorney – must start that process by ending the deceitful mischaracterization of violent riots as ‘rallies’ and reestablishing the rule of law in each of our state’s cities and counties," said North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

“There is no place for the destruction of property on our college campuses or in any North Carolina community; the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted by public safety officials to make clear that mob rule and acts of violence will not be tolerated in our state,” State House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said.

Chancellor Folt called the toppling "unlawful and dangerous."

A statement from UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings said in part that the safety and security of students, faculty and staff are paramount.

"We have been in touch with UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Cochrane and Chancellor Folt both last night and this morning about the removal of the Silent Sam statue on UNC-CH’s campus. Campus leadership is in collaboration with campus police, who are pulling together a timeline of the events, reviewing video evidence, and conducting interviews that will inform a full criminal investigation," the statement said.

One person was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and for concealing one's face during a public rally.

Police surrounded the statue once it was on the ground, but they made no other arrests on Monday. Overnight, university officials carried the toppled statue away.

Jim Woodall, the Orange County District Attorney said he plans to let police finish their investigation before he determines if anyone will be charged.

Fritsh, the former student, wants to see Silent Sam stand again.

"It should absolutely be put back up because it is a monument here on the university. It is public property. It should be restored," he said.

Hal Sanders, a former UNC employee had another idea.

"I think you should replace him with Michael Jordan flying through the air with that famous dunk. What's more American then Michael Jordan?" he said.

"Silent Sam" had been standing on the UNC campus since 1913.

Chancellor Folt released a statement about the toppling, saying she will "use the full breadth of state and University processes to hold those responsible accountable for their actions."

A statement from UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings said in part that the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff are paramount.

"We have been in touch with UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Cochrane and Chancellor Folt both last night and this morning about the removal of the Silent Sam statue on UNC-CH’s campus. Campus leadership is in collaboration with campus police, who are pulling together a timeline of the events, reviewing video evidence, and conducting interviews that will inform a full criminal investigation," the statement said.

One person was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and for concealing one's face during a public rally.

Police surrounded the statue once it was on the ground, but they made no further arrests. Overnight, university officials carried the toppled statue away.

Jim Woodall, the Orange County District Attorney said he plans to let police finish their investigation before he determines if anyone will be charged.

"It should absolutely be put back up because it is a monument here on the university. It is public property. It should be restored," Fritsh said.

Hal Sanders, a former UNC employee had another idea.

"I think you should replace him with Michael Jordan flying through the air with that famous dunk. What's more American then Michael Jordan?", he said.

"Silent Sam" had been standing on the UNC campus since 1913.

'Silent Sam' is down