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Supporters back 'Silent Sam' protester in court

Posted May 7, 2018 12:07 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:15 a.m. EDT

— Supporters rallied behind a graduate student who smeared her own blood and red paint on a Confederate statue on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus as she made her first court appearance on Monday.

During a protest a week ago, Maya Little intentionally cut her hand and smeared her blood on the pedestal of the "Silent Sam" memorial before dousing the statue with red paint. She is charged with defacing a public statue, a misdemeanor.

"I will have more court dates. I will be tried for adding historical context to the crime they keep on our campus called Silent Sam," Little told her supporters, who filled the courtroom and rallied outside the Orange County Courthouse.

Students have been pressing UNC-Chapel Hill administrators for months to remove the 105-year-old statue from the campus, saying it represents white supremacy and shouldn't be part of a college that purports to promote diversity and openness.

"We challenge white supremacy, and we will continue to in Chapel Hill, in Durham and every place in this country that has a Confederate monument that glorifies white supremacists and allows them to march on our homes and our schools. We will stand up and fight back," Little said.

"It is not an effort to honor a Southern heritage, but a Confederate heritage. There are many southerners, North Carolinians, black and white, who maintain their loyalty to the Union and their opposition to the Confederacy and to slavery. The monument represents the opposite of that," said Reginald Hildebrand, a former associate professor of Afro-American studies and history at UNC-Chapel Hill who now teaches at Durham Technical Community College.

"As a historical artifact, there are places where [Silent Sam] could be, where it would be appropriate. But for it to be sort of the calling card for a great public university is inappropriate," Hildebrand said. "So, I’m here to support what Maya Little is trying to do in a way that she finds consistent with civil disobedience."

Rally organizer Alyssa Bowen said Little shouldn't be prosecuted for her actions.

"I think she expected that there would be some kind of repercussions. But laws aren’t always just, and we’ve seen a lot of laws change over history. She shouldn’t face any repercussions over this," Bowen said.

Those who support Silent Sam remaining on campus say the statue honors the many UNC-Chapel Hill students who fought for the Confederacy.

University administrators have repeatedly said they don't believe they have the legal authority to remove Silent Sam, saying it's up to the North Carolina Historical Commission.

Officials declined to comment Monday on any discipline Little may face, citing student privacy laws.

One professor has called for replacing the statue with a memorial to honor black lynching victims, similar to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.