Politics & Government

A Silent Sam supporter brought a gun to UNC on Saturday. Police asked him to leave.

UNC police say at least one member of a group that has protested in support of Silent Sam came onto campus Saturday carrying a handgun, and was asked to leave.

No charges were filed, police say, because officers weren’t immediately sure any laws were broken.

“On Saturday, March 16, members of a ‘Confederate heritage’ group walked onto the UNC-Chapel Hill campus from the Town of Chapel Hill via Raleigh Street to Cameron Avenue,” UNC said in a statement released Monday. At least one individual was in possession of a handgun. They were approached by UNC Police officers on the sidewalk in front of Memorial Hall and were asked to leave campus, which they did.

Pro-Confederate demonstrators brought weapons to UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus where anti-racist demonstrators were having a party on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Daniel Hosterman

“North Carolina’s Open Carry Law allows individuals to carry firearms in many public areas, unless otherwise prohibited,” the statement continued. “Firearms generally are prohibited on campuses in our state. Due to immediate uncertainty on Saturday about the application of these laws to the Cameron Avenue right of way, which is maintained by the Town of Chapel Hill, no arrest was made in this case.

“However, moving forward, possession of a firearm will not be tolerated within any boundary of the campus. Anyone with a firearm found in violation ... will be arrested and issued a warning of trespass for the campus.

“The University is committed to the safety of our campus community.”

Photos of members of the group posted to social media included one of a man with what appears to be a holstered handgun on his right hip.

Supporters and opponents of the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam have met repeatedly on campus for months, their disdain for one another undiminished by the fact that the statue was toppled in August and placed in storage. As UNC officials determine what the fate of the bronze monument will be, protesters often gather at UNC on weekends and try to make their case about whether it should be displayed at all and, if so, in what context.

Students often join the protest against the monument. Generally, those opposed to Silent Sam far outnumber those who support it at the events. University police staff the events.

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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.