“Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights,” he said. “But history is not on their side. We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a pro-Confederate heritage group, released a statement denouncing Cooper's plans to remove the statues, saying his statement would embolden others to pull down statues, like what happened in Durham.
The group said it would reward anyone with information leading to arrests and convictions for those who pull down statues in the future if the government fails to act.
Fitzhugh Brundage, a UNC history professor who focuses on American history after the Civil War, said the Silent Sam statue has a target on its back, but nothing can be done to bring it down as long as the current law is in place.
“Every few years there’s been a sort of crescendo of calls to pull down Silent Sam,” he said. “I think after what happened in Durham I would think the decisions about Silent Sam are going to be very vigorous.”
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger wrote a letter to Chancellor Folt calling for the removal of Silent Sam on Friday.
Duke University's statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed Saturday, prompting UNC students and faculty to demand the removal of Silent Sam.
Harry Watson, a UNC history professor who focuses on the Antebellum South, said the monuments teach a story about the Civil War that erases the history of African Americans.
“I want us to remember a story that’s both true and full," he said. "And the monuments are not teaching that story. If the law is repealed, it will create the opportunity for us all to teach in public a much fuller and more accurate account of what the nation experienced."
In a statement responding to the violence of white nationalists, North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II called on politicians to condemn racism.
“To condemn racism and hate while condoning the policies of white nationalism under the cover of a so-called conservatism is not condemnation at all,” he said.
President Donald Trump condemned the removal of confederate statues on Twitter Thursday.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he tweeted. “You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
Lexington, Ky., New Orleans and Baltimore governments ordered Confederate statues to be removed in the aftermath of Charlottesville.