Seven arrested at protest on UNC campus; 3 accused of toppling Silent Sam formally charged
Posted August 25, 2018 4:25 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2018 8:40 a.m. EDT
Chapel Hill, N.C. — At least seven people were arrested after a group of protesters gathered Saturday on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to demonstrate just days after the controversial Silent Sam statue was toppled.
A small group began gathering on campus at about 10 a.m., and protesters chanted "no platform for white supremacists" after a man showed up in clothing reminiscent of a Confederate soldier.
That man, Casey Becknell, came to the protest from Davidson County to show support for the Silent Sam statue that was torn down when about 300 people gathered at the site of the statue, surrounded it with banners and marched across campus chanting and singing before eventually toppling it.
"I don't protest, I don't. If something drives on my heart, I'm going to go for it and this kind of touched my heart," Becknell said.
Counter-protesters frequently interrupted those in support of the Silent Sam statue and a man in a Black Lives Matter hat repeatedly stood in front of TV cameras to block reporters from showing Confederate banners.
"No platform for white supremacists," demonstrators shouted.
UNC-Chapel Hill officials said seven people have been arrested in connection with the protests. Danielle Shochet and Barry Brown were charged with simple assault, John Quick was charged with assault, Kristin Emory was charged with resisting arrest, Alexander Joustra and Lillian Laura Price were charged with injury and damage to property and Thomas Bruefach was charged with causing a public disturbance.
One of the men was arrested after UNC police accused him of threatening a Silent Sam supporter and another was arrested after stomping on a Confederate flag and breaking its flag post. A third person was arrested after trying to set fire to a Confederate flag, sparking jeers against the police.
UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said none of the arrests involved people affiliated with the university.
The group supporting Silent Sam consisted of about a dozen people, but their number was dwarfed by demonstrators who said they see the statue as a racist symbol.
"I came out here today, it's very simple, to flight against hate and bigotry. That's not what our town is about," counter-protester Carrie Lindberg said.
Folt estimated that more than 100 people attended Saturday's rally, which had wrapped up by about 4 p.m. She said she was grateful nobody was hurt, as the atmosphere became "highly charged at times."
Folt acknowledged that Confederate monuments have been a flashpoint for demonstration on the UNC campus and throughout the community.
"We have to find a way going forward to identify a sustainable, lawful solution for the Confederate monument in the long term, but we don't have plans identified yet," she said in a Saturday afternoon conference call.
Police imposed parking restrictions on some town streets Saturday morning amid reports of the rally. Although the rally was largely confined to the UNC campus, protesters did eventually march and briefly blocked traffic at the intersection of Franklin and Henderson streets. Police said no protest or march had been approved by the city because Chapel Hill had not issued any permits for any event in downtown Chapel Hill
There has been debate about whether or not the Silent Sam statue will return to the UNC campus, as a 2015 law makes it illegal for historical monuments to be removed unless it's for reasons of historical preservation or public safety. A member of the UNC Board of Governors said earlier this week that the 2015 law requires that Silent Sam be returned to its original location within 90 days.
"In the interest of public safety, I would find a better location, a safe, secure location for the monument," Folt said. "If I could do that, that is what I still believe is necessary."
Three arrested in connection with Monday night protest
Three people facing charges in connection with the Monday night toppling of the Silent Sam statue were arrested Saturday.
Two of the people charged surrendered to police at the Orange County jail, but another was arrested at another location. Two of the people had been released under $2,000 secured bond Saturday night.
Jonathan Fitzgerald Fuller, 27, Lauren Aucoin, 23, and Raul Arce Jimenez, 27, were all charged with misdemeanor rioting and misdemeanor defacing a public monument. UNC police said the investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are possible.
Jimenez was charged with tearing down a Confederate monument in Durham last year.
Jimenez spoke to WRAL News during the Monday night Silent Sam protest.
"I'm supporting all the students here today," he said Monday.
Jimenez was found not guilty and charges were dropped against seven others earlier this year in connection with the incident involving the Confederate monument at the Durham courthouse.
Defend Durham says the attorney who represented Jimenez and other Durham protesters will represent those charged in connection with the Chapel Hill case.
Defend Durham had planned what they called a "conference" that was supposed to culminate in a march through Durham at 6:30 p.m. The event was later moved to the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough to support those surrendering to authorities in connection with Monday night's protest. At about 5 p.m., however, approximately 30 people who had gathered left the area and an organizer said the event had been canceled because they were "tired."
One other person was arrested during Monday night's Silent Sam protest and charged with resisting arrest and concealing one's face during a public rally.
Folt said campus leaders didn't anticipate the vandalism, and that the school would conduct a complete investigation. She called the actions of the protesters "unlawful and dangerous."
“Whatever anyone feels about the Confederate monument, what happened Monday night was destruction of state property,” she said.