During the protest, multiple speakers addressed the crowd. Heather Redding, founder of Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action, said Silent Sam’s construction stems from the desire of the Daughters of the Confederacy to revise history and purify their heritage.
“As for UNC, a prestigious institution committed to critical thinking and scholarship, I find it difficult to see why there's any interest in maintaining a monument that is an affront to the diverse community of students and faculty that this University claims to value,” Redding said.
Redding said the University’s lack of action to take down Silent Sam lies in its reliance on wealthy donors and General Assembly members, although critics of the protests argue removing Silent Sam would be an attempt to erase parts of history.
Protesters believe there is a difference between remembering the past and celebrating what they view as revisionist history.
“One of the things you can say throughout history is narratives change, and keeping statues up forever and ever just because they were there to start with or they were put up at some point is a totally illegitimate way to memorialize anything,” graduate student Sarah Miles said. “We can still remember the things that happened in the past and understand them in all their complexities without having a statue up that makes it dangerous for students to be on campus.”
The controversy over the statue has caused some to suggest additions to the statue explaining its place on campus, but Ayling does not believe this is effective in combating the racism she has observed from visitors on campus.
“Some people think it's possible to leave the statue up and create some sort of learning environment, but the people that make racist comments and use racial slurs, they are not going to sit and read a plaque and learn about it,” Ayling said. “I think there's something fundamentally wrong about having a university that proclaims that it's for all kind but has a symbol of white supremacy at the gateway to campus.”
When graduate student Ian Gutgold first came to UNC from Mississippi, he did not understand why taking down the statue was so important to some community members. After listening to diverse opinions and attending protests, he shifted his opinion in favor of the removal of the contentious memorial.
“Take a minute to listen to the people who want it to come down," he said. "Even if they don't change your mind, be open to listening to people who don't agree with you, because that's how my mind was changed."