Orange County

‘Silence Sam’: Possible rally planned around UNC Chapel Hill Confederate statue Tuesday

Confederate flags frame the confederate soldier monument known as "Silent Sam" during a rally on UNC campus in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Sunday, October 25, 2015. The rally, held in support of keeping the monument on campus, was held by Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County.
Confederate flags frame the confederate soldier monument known as "Silent Sam" during a rally on UNC campus in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Sunday, October 25, 2015. The rally, held in support of keeping the monument on campus, was held by Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County. newsobserver.com

Another rally against a Confederate statue is planned in the Triangle, or at least that’s what fliers circulated on social media say.

“The first day of Silent Sam’s last semester” is the title of a flier for a rally at the statue on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus at 7 p.m. Tuesday, along with the hashtags “#SilenceSam, #HeatherHeyer, #BlackLivesMatter” with a photo of the statue upside down.

UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt released a letter to the campus community Monday, saying the rally was being promoted by groups not affiliated with the university, “but we realize this event may garner interest among those on our campus.” The letter also was signed by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp and Police Chief Jeff McCracken.

Following white supremacist protests and counter protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly, along with demonstrations around the country, including in Durham where protesters toppled a Confederate monument, Folt said the university understands the “strong desire” of some people to participate in protests calling for the removal of such statues.

“That is as it should be,” Folt wrote. “Carolina aspires to be a place where we can discuss and express our differences and still come together in a peaceful manner.”

But Folt said the university knows people in the community are concerned about safety on or around campus during protests and other gatherings. Last week Gov. Roy Cooper called for all Confederate monuments in the state to be taken down, and Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger called for Silent Sam to be relocated.

“We know that the outside groups who may attend such a rally may be more interested in promoting discord and violence to advance their own agendas than engaging in a constructive and peaceful protest,” Folt wrote.

If the university had the ability to “immediately move the statue in the interest of public safety, we would,” Folt wrote, adding that the university is exploring “all options” and does not have the “unilateral authority or legal ability” to remove the statue.

“The university must obey the law,” Folt wrote, adding that the university is working with UNC system administrators and state government to find a solution.

In the meantime, UNC campus police and other law enforcement “will take strong measures” to make sure the planned rally and other similar events are safe.

The university is discouraging people from attending the rally and to avoid McCorkle Place and the area around Silent Sam “considering the potential for a highly charged atmosphere and the very real possibility for confrontation with outside groups.”

Those who do choose to attend Tuesday’s planned rally should stay alert and vigilant.

Anyone with information about the event that they would like to share can call campus police at 919-962-8100.

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