'Silent Sam' protester found guilty of defacing statue
Posted October 15, 2018 4:53 a.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2018 6:44 p.m. EDT
Hillsborough, N.C. — The woman who tossed blood and paint on the "Silent Sam" Confederate monument on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus in April was found guilty Monday of defacing a public monument.
Maya Little, a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, readily admitted to smearing substances on the statue's pedestal, saying she wanted to push the school's administration into removing the statue, which she says represents white supremacy, from campus.
District Judge Samantha Cabe said that admission was enough to find Little guilty of the offense.
"This case is not a case about the removal of the statue. This is the case about the throwing of paint, as admitted on the stand by Ms. Little," Cabe said. "Based upon Ms. Little’s own admission, I have to find that she is guilty of the charge."
Before her trial, Little spoke Monday morning to a crowd of her supporters outside the Orange County Courthouse.
"They have failed to stop white supremacy, they have failed to remove it from campus, and they are now punishing the people who fought against it," she said.
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Her attorney, Scott Holmes, subpoenaed UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken and Chancellor Carol Folt, but Cabe ruled that the pair would not be forced to testify.
"I will not find that either is so high ranking that they’re immune from testimony," she said. "However, I will grant the motion to quash the subpoena based upon the reasonable time for compliance, as well as the reasonableness of the subpoenas themselves."
Holmes also tried to get the case dismissed because of the wording of the law regarding defacing a monument, but Cabe denied the motion.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and Police Chief Chris Blue were called by the defense to discuss the impact of Silent Sam on the community. Both called the statue a threat to public safety.
"It has created a sense of frustration for people in our community and outside our community," Hemminger testified. "We are concerned of something like the Charlottesville incident happening."
An effort to move Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Va., led to a violent clash last year between white nationalists and counter-protesters that left one woman dead and dozens injured.
Little also testified in her own defense, saying that she had tried every legal channel to remove or add context to the statue, but those efforts got nowhere. So, she had to resort to vandalism.
"I felt that, without that blood, without any kind of context around the statue, besides calling it the blind duty to fight for slavery, that it was not a proper historical monument at all," she said.
Silent Sam was toppled by protestors in August. Folt's administration and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees have until Nov. 15 to submit a plan for the statue's future to the UNC Board of Governors.
Meg Yarnell, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Julian Carr, the white supremacist who spoke at Silent Sam's 1913 dedication, sent a letter Monday to UNC-Chapel Hill officials to request that the charges against Little and other protesters be dropped.
"I am grateful for what Maya did to contextualize this statue and advance the cause for its removal," Yarnell wrote. "It is a horrifying necessity to confront the reality that my ancestors participated in such shameful things, and I want to express my sorrow and deepest apologies for the profound suffering, trauma and inequality caused by the actions of my ancestors, including Julian Carr. However, apologies are not enough. Action is needed to help right these historic wrongs."
Cabe said she struggled with her decision in the case.
"I walked back in here still not knowing what I was going to do with the case," she said. "It makes the application of a statute that appears to be black and white very gray."
Little used necessity as a defense, essentially saying that she had to take action to stop a clear and immediate threat of public harm. But Cabe said she didn't find that Little's actions met that standard.
Even after finding Little guilty, Cabe continued judgment – no verdict was entered – and didn't impose any fines, restitution or court costs.
"It’s kind of like a tie, really," Holmes said afterward. "There is a finding of guilt, but the judge really was wrestling with that and found a way to try to honor the actions of Ms. Little by not imposing a judgment."