UNC campus rally against racism and police violence ends with broken window

A rally on the UNC campus Wednesday at which students spoke against the way campus police have handled clashes between pro- and anti-Confederate-monument groups ended with the breaking of glass.

UNC Police said at least one window was broken when protesters went to South Building to deliver a list of demands to interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. The building was closed, and some protesters pounded on the doors and windows, resulting in the glass breaking.

No one was injured, the school said, and no one was arrested.

The protest had started earlier in the on the steps of Wilson Library. Posters on the Chapel Hill campus throughout the week encouraged students to walk out of class to attend the event, intended to draw attention to white supremacy and what some students and faculty have complained is unfair treatment by UNC police.

Student protesters, who identify as anti-racist and anti-fascist, have demonstrated for months on campus: first to demand that Silent Sam, the university’s monument to the Confederacy, be removed; then to tear the monument to the ground, in August; and since then, to demand that it not be reinstalled.

Pro-monument activists, who identify as supporters of the Confederacy and of Southern heritage, also have protested on campus to say the statue should be put back.

When one group plans an event, the other usually attends, and the two face off, often with bull horns and noisemakers.

Campus police also turn out for the rallies, and generally escort the “Confederates” onto and off of campus.

Students have complained that many of their number have been arrested and handled roughly by police during the events, while officers have been deferential to the “Confederates.” On March 16, at least one member of the pro-monument group came to campus with a handgun, but was not arrested because police said it wasn’t clear he had violated the law.

In response to complaints by students and faculty, Guskiewicz on Monday named the members of a new Campus Safety Commission to look at campus policing issues, and announced that the university has hired an outside consultant to review incidents of the past several months. Immediately, some students and faculty questioned how effective the commission and the private consultant would be, and how much input other students and faculty would be allowed to have in their work.

The commission’s first meeting is to be May 3.

The students have made a list of demands for the university administration, which they were trying to deliver when the window was broken.

Joel Curran, vice chancellor for university communications, said after the incident, “We welcome the voices of everyone on our campus to share their experiences and make recommendations.

We value and support free speech and civil discourse as we work to strengthen the relationship between the police and the community. However, breaking windows does not represent these values. It endangers the safety of people and is not acceptable. We are grateful no one was injured.”

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.