Local News

UNC preps for rally

Posted August 24, 2018 12:47 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2018 10:58 a.m. EDT

— Campus police at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said on Friday that three people are now facing charges in connection with the damage done to a statue on campus that honored Confederate war veterans. Protesters pulled down Silent Sam on Monday night.

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.

Police from the university and the city were present but did not challenge the protesters at the time.

One person was arrested on Monday, on charges with resisting arrest and concealing one's face during a public rally.

UNC police made clear that the three people, who each face charges of misdemeanor riot and misdemeanor defacing of a public monument, were not students or otherwise affiliated with the university.

As the investigation continues, more arrests may come, police said.

UNC Chancellor Carol 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.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he understands this is a divisive issue, but that he has one job: to prosecute any charges that are brought.

"I do feel like there were clear substantial violations of the law. I have seen the evidence. I have seen the investigation," he said.

Since the statue came down, people from across the campus, the state and the country have chimed in to blast the extra-legal actions of the protesters.

Even those who would have supported Silent Sam's removal disagreed with the way it was handled.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday night, saying that he "understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change … but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities."

Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby, who is also an attorney in Wilmington, said "Silent Sam" will go back up.

"It's not my opinion, it's what the law is in this state," he said. "And the law is, the statue goes back up. There's no if, ands or buts. There's no meeting, there's no vote, there's no nothing. It's the law and the statue goes back up."

On Friday, university officials said they are preparing for a possible rally on Saturday regarding "Silent Sam."

"We do not know for sure what groups may attend, but we are mindful that the current atmosphere is highly charged, and protests that begin peacefully do not always remain that way. For this reason, we urge you not to attend," the statement said.

Cameron Samek and James Wright said they're aware of how quickly a situation can escalate, having witnessed the toppling of the "Silent Sam" statue Monday night, but the possibility of another rally doesn't cause alarm for them.

"I don't know if it has the potential to develop into an unsafe situation, just one that is of unrest," Samek said.

The Town of Chapel Hill released a statement, saying that Chapel Hill police are working with UNC police and other area law enforcement agencies in preparation for the rumored rally.

Depending on the size of the rally, officials said streets around campus may be closed, but students remain optimistic.

"I do think that there is a chance that people can be civil and, you know, it can be resolved peacefully. In the off-chance something does happen, hopefully we can be safe, I think" Wright said