On Monday morning, protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill toppled a statue known as “Silent Sam,” reports The New York Times.
The act was part of the ongoing angst surrounding Confederate monuments in the southern United States. Silent Sam, erected in 1913, was regarded by demonstrators as a tribute to white supremacy and a symbol of the southern states’ defense of slavery in the civil war.
University officials complained about its continued presence on the campus, even going so far as to state that “removing the Confederate monument is in the best interest of the safety of our campus,” reports The Irish Times. However, state law prevented them from taking it down without a panel’s approval.
Many applauded the effort to take down the statue, with some of the demonstrators attempting to bury the statue’s head in the ground. However, the university issued a statement lamenting the act of vandalism.
“Tonight’s actions were dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured. We are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage.”
While Carol L. Folt, the university chancellor, stated in a letter that the statue “has been divisive for years, and its presence has been a source of frustration for many people not only on our campus but throughout the community,” she also reprimanded the protesters for their “unlawful and dangerous” actions.
A spokesperson for Governor Roy Cooper also commented on the demonstration, reports The Irish Times.
“The governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustrations, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”
It was estimated that 250 people were involved in Monday’s events. One of the demonstrators ended up getting arrested for concealing their face and resisting arrest.
During the demonstration leading up to the toppling of the statue, people marched across campus and exchanged verbal altercations with counter-protesters. The New York Times writes that the demonstrators were the same ones who opposed potential consequences given to a student who threw red ink and blood on the statue in April.
The hours-long protest was also accompanied by banners, signs, smoke bombs, and chants. Demonstrators handed out bandannas with the words “Sam Must Fall” written on them and linked arms as they formed circles around the statue to shield it before it was felled.
A 28-year-old alumna, Jasmin Howard, spoke of the event, reports The Irish Times.
“It was all smiles and joy and dancing and jubilation, to be honest. It was really a joyous moment.”