Editor’s note: Gov. Roy Cooper shared this statement in response to Wednesday’s Historical Commission meeting:
It is time for North Carolina to realize that we can document and learn from our history without idolizing painful symbols.
The General Assembly needs to change its 2015 law so our state and its people have a better path to remove or relocate these monuments safely, and I urge those who object to the monuments to call on their legislators to change the law and support legislative candidates who want to move our state forward.
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The actions that toppled Silent Sam bear witness to the strong feelings many North Carolinians have about Confederate monuments. I don’t agree with or condone the way that monument came down, but protesters concluded that their leaders would not – could not—act on the frustration and pain it caused.
I acknowledge, too, those who believe these monuments should stay as they are because they symbolize our history. But they are just one part of our history. North Carolina is welcoming to all, and our most prominent public places should reflect that.”
The mayor’s statement
The removal of the Silent Sam monument has resulted in a wide range of emotions among members of our community. As mayor, the safety of our entire community is my top priority in these situations. I wish to express my gratitude for the collaborative efforts of Chapel Hill and UNC public safety personnel who kept everyone safe.
After a rally that began at Peace and Justice Plaza in downtown Chapel Hill Monday evening, the crowd moved onto the UNC-Chapel Hill campus where the statue was brought down. When we learned of the rally, Chapel Hill police began planning for a peaceful assembly at the plaza.
When the crowd spilled onto Franklin Street, police officers detoured vehicular traffic. This is our standard practice in the interest of public safety. Our focus for any large crowd event is to keep people safe. While there were heated exchanges between passionate protesters and UNC police officers, the crowd was largely peaceful and orderly when assembled at Peace and Justice Plaza. Chapel Hill Police made no arrests at the plaza or during the march on Franklin Street.
The Silent Sam monument has been a source of tension for many on campus and in the community for years – as is the case in communities across the country. In our town, we have a long history of supporting peaceful dialogue when grappling with difficult issues.
Recognizing that the monument does not reflect the values of being a welcoming and inclusive community for all, our Town Council has been unanimous in its support for relocation of the statue. Based on that support, I wrote a letter in August 2017, asking that the NC Historical Commission move the statue to a safer place where the story of young Confederate veterans could be told in historical context.
At this point, it is my understanding that the UNC Department of Public Safety is investigating this act of vandalism. In the coming days and weeks, our Police Department and management team will work to support the university in its investigation. Looking ahead, we will work together to move our community forward. I encourage everyone to remember that our freedom of expression does not come at the expense of safety and public order.
Mayor, Chapel Hill
How we got here
So many posts and comments talking about what’s wrong with our country. Everybody’s blindly pointing fingers everywhere toward things and people, but never pointing them where they should be.
It’s not the current president. It’s not because parents aren’t beating enough butts. It’s not because they took God out of schools. It’s not because of the color of anyone’s skin. Its not because of a statue or a flag. It’s not because of any of this.
This country came to be because at one point in history, people came together. They helped each other. They stood up for what was right. They shook each other’s hands and took care of one another.
This country was not based on corporations, any one religion, or money. It was about the people. The truth is: We are what’s wrong with this country. America has lost its heart. THAT is what’s wrong.
Stop pointing your fingers at other races, religions, law enforcement, the current president, lack of prayer. It’s just become all about whom to hurt next at this point. It solves nothing and just fuels more hatred. Put your personal differences aside. Agree to coexist and work together.
Being a decent human being is free. It actually saves lives. Learn to put yourself in the shoes of others and stop being greedy. We’re so busy tearing each other down that we are missing the more important issues that are taking place right in front of our eyes. Folks, there is poison in most our foods. There’s homeless veterans on almost every street corner. Human trafficking is happening every day in every town. There are people trying to legalize pedophilia. But we’re too busy hating each other to see any of this. We need to come together now more than ever.
Be like Durham?
Some of the criminals, which is what they became when the Silent Sam protesters destroyed property that did not belong to them, were carrying signs that said “Be like Durham.”
Yeah, Chapel Hill, you need to be like Durham. You know, get some spineless and backbone of noodles prosecutors that are afraid to prosecute these criminals because the city council doesn’t want him to prosecute because they are afraid of being voted out of office and they should be.
And get you some judges that will throw all the criminal cases out even if you have the crime on video and thousands of witnesses. Get you some lawmen that will stand and watch while these cry babies destroy property that does not belong to them. You have a good start on that one; remember the thug with the paint and the claim of her own blood and the police officer that stood and watched.
Then we the tax payers whose taxes are already way too high in Orange County have to pay for such childish acts.
So do these things and yes you, Chapel Hill, can be like Durham.
Oh, there is one more thing . When people turn on the TV to catch the news and pick up the paper and every day hear about a shooting and or a killing in Chapel Hill then you will be like Durham.
It is time to put an end to these criminals destroying property that does not belong to them. They have every right to protest, but they don’t have the right to block streets and roads and block emergency vehicles or to break the laws. If cities and counties can’t stop the criminal acts it’s time to bring in the state to handle these cry babies whose parents done a poor job of teaching them right from wrong.
I think it is time to put a stop to this stupidity before someone gets killed or dies simply because they can’t get to the hospital because these nuts have the road and streets blocked. It’s not about statues or racists. I think we all know what it’s about.
The failure to act
Chancellor Folt and the UNC administration, the Board of Governors, and the General Assembly in Raleigh have had a year since the events in Charlottesville to see how strongly people feel about Silent Sam. Yet they have stalled on taking substantive action. Their failure to act pushed people to act for them.
I have no problem with what happened, but I would’ve preferred to see the administration take down the statue themselves. I would’ve preferred to see them acknowledge that what the statue symbolizes is wrong. Taxpayer money is tied up in the salaries of people whose course of action was to do nothing.
Hopefully the university will not waste time and money on prosecutions. I see them as an avenue for UNC to retroactively claim action, and at worst a vindictive measure. The people who acted to take down the statue and what it symbolizes were forced to do so by the inactions of Chancellor Folt and the UNC administration, the Board of Governors, and the General Assembly in Raleigh. I fully expect that UNC will try to re-erect the statue. Maybe not in the same place, but somewhere. I would like to see the argument they make for putting it back up.