Local News

Anonymous group calling for removal of 'Silent Sam' will 'stand down for the present'

Posted February 27, 2018 10:16 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 11:11 a.m. EDT

— An anonymous group that threatened to remove the controversial “Silent Sam” Confederate statue from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus by Thursday said Tuesday night that members would “stand down for the present.”

The group, claiming to be 17 faculty members, sent a letter to Chancellor Carol Folt on Monday saying that, if she did not remove the statue by Thursday, they would remove it themselves.

A UNC spokeswoman confirms Folt got the letter but said the university could not verify its authenticity.

The group posted a message on Twitter Tuesday night saying it was told Folt was preparing to ask Gov. Roy Cooper to petition the state Historical Commission for an urgent ruling on whether the university could relocate the “Silent Sam” statue.

A law passed in 2015 states that historical monuments like Silent Sam can be altered or removed only with the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission. Threat to public safety is one of the provisions allowing removal of a monument, but that’s a matter of interpretation.

According to the message sent by the anonymous group, Cooper would be asked to immediately petition on behalf of the state on the grounds that recent events suggest the monument must be removed to be preserved. The group claims such a ruling could “be executed in hours rather than days.”

“As a sign of good faith, understanding that the chancellor is now seeking the quick removal of ‘Silent Sam,’ we shall stand down for the present. We are prepared to re-engage if the chancellor fails to follow through on her promise,” the group said in the message.

Cooper said Wednesday that he was unaware of any such request, but he reiterated statements he made last summer regarding Confederate statues that the university has the authority to move Silent Sam for public safety reasons and that he would be glad to work with officials to accomplish that.

"The university needs to be behind this. The university needs a plan as to what they want to do," he said. "I would certainly work with them, but the proposal needs to be made to the Historical Commission as to exactly what they want to do with it."

The Historical Commission is already reviewing a request by Cooper to move three Confederate statues from the State Capitol grounds to a Civil War battlefield site in Johnston County. A special committee appointed by the commission is gathering input before making a recommendation to the full panel in April.

A spokeswoman for UNC-Chapel Hill said she could not confirm the group's statements.

"We do not know who is behind these statements and have not been in communication with any such group," the university said in an email to WRAL News.