The Silent Sam statue at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, a Confederate monument that has been a source of controversy for decades, was pulled down by protesters on Monday night.
A crowd of around 250 protesters gathered at 7 p.m. to demand that university leaders remove Silent Sam, and express solidarity with Maya Little, a UNC graduate student who is facing expulsion and criminal charges for defacing the statue with blood and paint earlier this year. Some protesters surrounded the statue with grey banners that read “Dedicated to those who fight against the white supremacy that UNC upholds,” and many in the crowd said they did not know what the plan was.
Then at 9:20 p.m., demonstrators used a rope to bring the statue crashing to the ground, drawing cheers from the crowd. Once the statue was on the ground, protesters stomped on it and poured dirt on it.
UNC issued a statement condemning the protesters’ actions.
Silent Sam went up in 1913 after UNC approved a request from the United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect “a handsome and suitable monument on the grounds of our State University, in memory of the Chapel Hill boys, who left college, 1861-1865 and joined our Southern Army in defense of our State.”
The statute was dedicated on June 2, 1913, with speeches from then-Governor Locke Craig and Julian Carr, a Confederate Civil War veteran who praised his fellow soldiers as the saviors “of the Anglo Saxon race in the South,” and recalled “horse-whipp[ing] a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” because she had offended a white woman, then hiding out from the authorities on campus.
Silent Sam has been a focus of protests and controversy dating back to the ‘60s. There were new calls for the statue’s removal a year ago, amid the nationwide push to take down monuments to the Confederacy post-Charlottesville.
Governor Roy Cooper had called for removing Silent Sam and other Confederate monuments from public lands around the state, and UNC chancellor Carol Folt has said the statue should be moved. But a state law passed in 2015 forbids the removal or relocation of such monuments without the permission of the North Carolina Historical Commission. The panel was set to meet this week to debate Cooper’s request to remove other Confederate monuments at the state capitol.
Cooper released a statement on Monday night saying that while he too wants the symbols of the Confederacy to go, he opposes protesters tearing them down.
Earlier in the protest, one person was arrested and charged with concealing their face during a public rally and resisting arrest. No one has been arrested for toppling the statue.