Orange County

Group rallies as Silent Sam protesters, man who punched demonstrator appear in court

Silent Sam protesters threw an impromptu speakout Thursday after two fellow protesters and a supporter of the Confederate monument made their first court appearances.

Orange County District Court Judge Samantha Cabe set new court hearings for all three defendants:

Raul Jimenez, 27, of Raleigh, will appear in court again Oct. 9 on two misdemeanors charges: causing a public disturbance and defacing, writing on, marking or injuring a public statue or monument.

Jimenez also was charged with toppling a Confederate statue in Durham a year ago but was found not guilty of injury to real property, defacing a public building or monument, and conspiracy to deface a public building or monument. He had been accused of holding a ladder and manipulating a strap used to bring down the statue.

Dannielle Shochet, 47, of Raleigh will appear Sept. 20 on a charge of simple assault.

Barry Lee Brown, 40, of Liberty, will appear Sept. 24 on a charge of simple affray. Affray is defined under state law as a fight between two or more people in a public place.

Brown, who punched a protester at Saturday’s rally before being led away by police, has a criminal history that dates back to 1999, according to the N.C. Department of Correction. In 2008, he was jailed in Alamance County after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, communicating threats and other charges. He also was convicted on drug and larceny charges in 2004.

Eleven people have been arrested since the Silent Sam statue on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus was toppled Aug. 20. A 12th arrest is expected.

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A large group of Silent Sam protesters held a rally outside the Orange County Courthouse after Thursday’s short hearings.

The rally came ahead of two events scheduled for Thursday night on the UNC campus. A group known as ACTBAC, or Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, plans a twilight service to honor the fallen Confederate soldier statue at 8 p.m. near the empty pedestal.

At 7:30 p.m., protesters opposed to Confederate statues plan a “Silent Sam Dance Party and Speakout” at the same location.

UNC and town leaders have warned the community to stay away from the area, known as McCorkle Place.

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Activist’s death recalled

Jimenez mentioned last year’s toppling of the Durham Confederate statue at the start of Thursday morning’s rally. He also recalled the death of Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police officers last August during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“For decades, students, professors, workers and the community of Chapel Hill have fought for the removal of Silent Sam,” Jimenez said. “These [actions] were falling on deaf ears. UNC has refused to remove a statue that the students and faculty deem a violent reminder of an oppressive past.”

The group also rejected UNC officials’ characterization of the Silent Sam protesters as outside agitators. UNC senior Angumch Check, a member of the UNC Black Congress, said students have been involved in protests, sit-ins and other actions since the very beginning.

“[UNC Chancelllor Carol Folt] wants to concoct up this story of outside agitators to make it seem as if students were not there, as if students were not present,” Check said. “That is absolutely false. Students were there, students were present, students and community members and faculty have all been working very hard for this moment, and it is not something that she is going to divide us into little factions about.”

As they spoke, Brown and a friend drove by in a pickup truck, stopping briefly at a red light before driving off. They held small Confederate flags out of the truck’s windows. A middle-age woman holding a sign in support of Brown stood across the street from the rally.

The students don’t understand that Silent Sam is just a statue, she said. The protesters need to leave the statue alone, she said. It should be left where it’s been for over 100 years.

Her husband said they may attend the Silent Sam twilight service Thursday night.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb