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Hundreds of UNC-Chapel Hill students gather in response to rumors of white nationalist rally

Hundreds of students gathered at Polk Place on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill Wednesday in response to rumors of a white nationalist rally planned on campus.

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Photo from The Daily Tar Heel and staff writer Georgia Wieland-Stanford
Hannah Webster
, WRAL.com editor

Hundreds of students have dispersed after gathering at Polk Place on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill Wednesday in response to rumors of a white nationalist rally planned on campus.

Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, sent an email to deans and department chairs Wednesday, saying that word has spread that “individuals not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill” are planning a “Rally for Nationalism.”

"As a public university, we regularly have demonstrations from groups exercising their First Amendment rights, and our police officers are always prepared to ensure that those demonstrations transpire in a safe manner and do not disrupt our university operations," Guskiewicz said.

Students and activists could be heard shouting "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA," in front of the South Building, which houses the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.

The day 'Durham stood up'

A similar situation unfolded in Durham last summer.

After social media circulated a rumor that the Ku Klux Klan was headed to town, thousands of people turned out to counter their message on August 18.

Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis told city council members that she thought it would be a “non-event,” but the city, on high alert after groups clashed in Charlottesville, Va., just days before, activated their Emergency Operation Center and Unified Command Center.

Anti-KKK marchers on the steps and around the old courthouse in Durham, North Carolina on Friday Aug. 18, 2017 (Beth Jewel/WRAL contributor).

City and county buildings closed and businesses sent employees home, leaving the streets of Durham largely empty for the crowds who poured into downtown. What could have become a tense standoff instead turned into a sort of street party, with all ages and races singing, dancing, chanting and marching.

The Chapel Hill protest came one day after Durham County prosecutors announced they were dropping all charges against the suspects accused of toppling a Confederate monument on August 14, which prompted the Ku Klux Klan rumors and the Durham protests.

The Confederate statue was knocked down by protestors who said it represented a symbol of white supremacy.

District Attorney Roger Echols did not take questions after a terse statement in which he essentially said it did not make sense to pursue charges against the remaining suspects.

"I do believe the evidence supported the misdemeanor charges, and we proceeded on those charges," Echols said. "Acts of vandalism, regardless of noble intent, are still violations of law."

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