Orange County

After Durham statue falls, officials keep watch over Silent Sam and other monuments

A day after angry protesters topped a Confederate statue in Durham, state officials said they are working with local law enforcement to guard the Confederate memorials on North Carolina’s Capitol grounds in Raleigh.

In Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina leaders wouldn’t disclose their security plans around the campus Confederate monument known as Silent Sam, but the controversial statue is already under constant video surveillance.

Silent Sam was draped with a black hood for a protest Sunday following violence in Charlottesville caused by white supremacists who descended on the Virginia college town in Virginia. On Monday, protesters in Durham used a ladder and rope to pull down a Confederate statue in front of the city’s old courthouse.

State Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said Tuesday that the Department of Public Safety is working closely with Emergency Management officials, the state Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the Highway Patrol and State Capitol Police, as well as local emergency managers.

“DPS will maintain a presence in public areas and will continue to be vigilant to help ensure order, with its primary mission being public safety,” Hooks said in a statement.

Local police presence around Civil War monuments has been stepped up across the Triangle.

“While we do not discuss the specifics of our operations, we always make adjustments to the location of our resources to meet the needs of campus on any particular day,” said UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

The university had already installed surveillance cameras in McCorkle Place, near the location of Silent Sam, “as part of a comprehensive approach to campus security,” Peters said.

Silent Sam has been vandalized repeatedly in recent years, including incidents in which “Black Lives Matter” and other slogans were spray painted on the statue.

The statue, near Franklin Street at the entrance to campus, was erected in 1913 as a memorial to more than 300 alumni who lost their lives in the Civil War. It features a Confederate soldier with a rifle in hand. Legend has it that when the monument was installed, Julian Carr, namesake of Carrboro, gave a speech in which he said he had whipped a Negro woman until her skirt was in tatters.

It has been a source of controversy for decades, with students and others calling for its removal from time to time.

A group dubbed the Real Silent Sam Coalition pushed for the university to remove the statue amid a debate about spaces on UNC’s campus that are linked to slavery and white supremacy. In 2015, the Board of Trustees voted to rename a building on campus that had been named for William Saunders, a purported Ku Klux Klan leader.

Also that year, a pro-monument group waving Confederate flags and singing “Dixie” clashed with counter-protesters at the base of Silent Sam. Police kept a close watch on that tense standoff. There were no injuries.

In Raleigh on Tuesday, Laura Hourigan, a police spokeswoman, said officers have been posted at the city’s Martin Luther King Memorial Gardens, the first public park in the United States devoted to King and the civil rights movement. The site in Southeast Raleigh has not been a target for vandals, Hourigan said.

On Monday night, a peaceful protest was held at the MLK site in Raleigh.

Police are also assigned to Raleigh’s historic Oakwood Cemetery, where nearly 1,400 Confederate soldiers are buried, many who died at Gettysburg.

Robin Simonton, director of Oakwood Cemetery, said she noticed police on the grounds Monday night. Simonton, who has served as director of the cemetery for the past six years, said news reports of the statue damage in Durham and the violence in Charlottesville are upsetting.

“We don’t want to see the damage we have seen here before,” she said. “A cemetery is so different than a county courthouse or a county square. It’s private property. It’s a sacred place, and we serve all people, from all backgrounds, all colors. It’s a difficult time here in America.”

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill