Orange County

Mayor: Charlottesville riot puts Chapel Hill on notice as students return

UNC Chapel Hill Chief of Police Jeff B. McCracken escorts one of his officers away from a group of activists after he attempted to stop committed locals from covering the Silent Sam Confederate monument on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill on Aug. 13, 2017.
UNC Chapel Hill Chief of Police Jeff B. McCracken escorts one of his officers away from a group of activists after he attempted to stop committed locals from covering the Silent Sam Confederate monument on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill on Aug. 13, 2017. gturner@heraldsun.com

Preventing a repeat of the Charlottesville riot is high on the mind of Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger.

She said the town has coordinated with UNC-Chapel Hill officials and campus police to be on guard as students return to campus this week for the fall semester.

“In the days since the tragic incidents in Charlottesville, our law enforcement officers and town staff have been working closely with the university to be prepared should a similar event occur in Chapel Hill,” Hemminger said. “We are taking necessary steps to protect the safety and well-being of our community, which at this time of year is welcoming students for the fall semester from all over our state, our nation and the world.”

Students can begin moving in Thursday, Aug. 17, at Granville Towers and into on-campus housing Friday.

“Recognizing that we may not be immune from such an assault upon our own community for upholding the values that we share, it is important to make it clear that, although we support First Amendment rights, we will not tolerate hatred, bigotry, racism or violence,” Hemminger said.

One flashpoint on campus has been the Confederate monument known at Silent Sam.

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.

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

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The ‘Silent Sam’ statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus was covered in black cloth as few hundred demonstrators gathered at the statue Sunday, August 13, 2017 after violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly on Saturday. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

Silent Sam was draped with a black hood during a protest Sunday following violence in Charlottesville involving white supremacists who descended on the Virginia college town.

UNC-Chapel Hill had already installed surveillance cameras in McCorkle Place, near the location of Silent Sam, “as part of a comprehensive approach to campus security,” said UNC spokeswoman Joanne.

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.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6889, @JEJ_HSNews

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