Cooper gives UNC permission to remove Silent Sam

Protesters drape a flag that reads "Rest in Power: Heather Heyer" over the Silent Sam monument. Heyer was hit and killed by a car that drove into a crowd during the Charlottesville protests.

Gov. Roy Cooper wrote a letter to UNC-System President Margaret Spellings giving the University permission to remove Silent Sam if leaders "believe there is a real risk to public safety."

Cooper's letter was in response to a letter from Spellings, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, Board of Governors Chairperson Lou Bissette, N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Eric Hooks and UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees Chair Haywood Cochrane. 

The original letter from Spellings said UNC law enforcement believe, "that it is only a matter of time before an attempt is made to pull down Silent Sam in much the same manner we saw in Durham. Based on our interactions with State and local law enforcement, including the State Bureau of Investigation, an attempt may occur at any time." 

"Other university leaders have taken decisive actions in recent days," Cooper wrote, referring to recent actions taken by Duke University President Vincent Price.

Price ordered the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the entrance of Duke Chapel on Saturday. 

Cooper said the 2015 law — enacted under former Gov. Pat McCrory — that prevents removing, relocating or altering monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission, allows the University to take "immediate measures."

He said he and his administration "have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the University and local law enforcement since the troubling unrest in Charlottesville."

"State law enforcement and emergency officials remain available to help and support University as it navigates this process," he said.

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