Police predict UNC students may tear down Confederate statue
- The University of North Carolina has received gubernatorial approval to remove a Confederate statue from campus after police warned it is “only a matter of time” before students tear it down themselves.
- State law requires the North Carolina Historical Commission to approve any alterations to monuments owned by the state, but Gov. Roy Cooper said that imminent threats to "public safety" override those restrictions.
- Students are planning a rally Tuesday night to demand that the "Silent Sam" statue be removed from campus.
The University of North Carolina has received gubernatorial approval to remove a Confederate statue from campus after police warned it is “only a matter of time” before students tear it down themselves.
As Campus Reform has previously reported, the monument, known as “Silent Sam,” is no stranger to controversy as vandals have repeatedly spray-painted phrases such as “tear it down” and “Black Lives Matter” on its base, but it now faces an even greater threat, according to The News & Observer.
“Chancellor Folt has notified us that the law enforcement staff at UNC-Chapel Hill believe that it is only a matter of time before an attempt is made to pull down Silent Sam in much the same manner we saw in Durham,” administrators informed Governor Roy Cooper in a letter Monday. “Based on our interactions with State and local law enforcement, including the State Bureau of Investigation, an attempt may occur at any time.”
Despite previous student-led efforts to remove Silent Sam from campus, UNC officials are bound by a 2015 law requiring approval from the North Carolina Historical Commission before removing, relocating, or altering “a monument, memorial, or work of art owned by the State.”
Additionally, Silent Sam is categorized as an “object of remembrance,” and as such can only be temporarily relocated for preservation or construction purposes, while permanent relocation is only possible on the condition that it be moved to a place “of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access.”
Nonetheless, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger penned an August 17 open letter to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, urging her to “petition the North Carolina Historical Commission to have the statue of Silent Sam removed immediately from its current location on campus and placed in storage.”
Consequently, Folt, along with System President Margaret Spellings and several other university officials, wrote to Cooper asking him to “consider convening the North Carolina Historical Commission” to address the issue.
While the letter cited potential damage to the statue, it focused primarily on the significant safety and “security threats” its presence now causes, referencing the recent death in the Charlottesville riot and the toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham.
In response, Cooper proclaimed that his administration “has stood shoulder-to shoulder with the university” while granting Spellings permission to remove the statue based on a provision in North Carolina law.
“In circumstances like this one, the law clearly gives that authority to ‘building inspector[s] or similar officials’ to take steps in the interest of avoiding ‘threats to public safety,’” Cooper explained, adding that “if the university and its leadership such a dangerous condition is on campus, then the law gives it the authority to address those concerns.”
While UNC officials have yet to announce if they plan to remove or relocate Silent Sam, they have placed two concentric fences around the monument, and posters around campus are currently advertising an event titled “the first day of Silent Sam’s last Semester,” which is scheduled to take place Tuesday evening in front of the statue.
Campus Reform contacted President Spelling and Chancellor Folt for comment but received no response as of press time.
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