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The Daily Tar Heel

No silence at Silent Sam protest

 Confederate heritage supporters rallied in McCorkle Place to defend the statue of Silent Sam on Sunday. A protest against the statue went on at the same time.
Confederate heritage supporters rallied in McCorkle Place to defend the statue of Silent Sam on Sunday. A protest against the statue went on at the same time.

Hand drums, played by the anti-Confederate counter-protestors, set a beat in the background. The crowd grew larger and louder. Posters reading “Black Lives Matter” were staked into the ground. The Real Silent Sam Coalition joined, carrying a banner. They were ready when Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County protestors marched toward Silent Sam, armed with Confederate flags, from the Morehead Planetarium parking lot.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue’s got to go,” shouted the counter-protestors as Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County protestors made their way around the police-guarded rails that surrounded the statue. “Whose University? Our University!”

Police held back the line of the counter-protesters and allowed them to circle to the other side of the statue.

“They don’t want to hear the truth,” said H. K. Edgerton, keynote speaker for the pro-Confederate rally, once they stopped in front of Silent Sam. “This particular moment right here came because the press told a lie. That baby boy (Dylann Roof) went into a church in South Carolina and committed an insane act when he killed those people.”

Edgerton said Roof was found holding a Confederate flag and a rifle and the press assumed the Confederates were dangerous. The flag is a symbol of the South and was misrepresented in that circumstance, he said.

He said the counter-protesters had their right to speak, but the “Southern side” deserved to be heard and the lies anti-Confederates were shouting were impeding that right.

“You over there talking about ‘black lives matter,’” he said. “The only place that black lives ever mattered to is the Christian white folks in the south land of America.”

Graduate student Ryan Branagan was holding an “Against White Supremacy Sign,” and said he believes the University should take the monument off of its campus because it is a negative reminder of those who were killed in the “holocaust of enslavement.”

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, these racist pigs have got to go,” the anti-Confederates shouted.

“This is not something you can fix with lukewarm, half-hearted emails sent to the University listserv,” said Leah Osae, one of the speakers for the counter-protesters, toward Chancellor Carol Folt. “Students and staff deserve better than your service, or perhaps lack of service, that you have provided, or perhaps not provided.”

Osae and the majority of the counter-protestors stayed on the opposite side of the police railings, yards away from Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County. Others confronted the pro-Confederate protestors.

Student Bryar Loftfield and Chapel Hill resident Christian Parnell said they believe the “young white people” who were not willing to talk about the issue think race is something they should be fighting for “because it’s hip.”

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” Loftfield said. “I think it’s as simple as that. Protesting with hate is not ever going to get rid of hate.”

Mark Self, an Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County member, said he is not a racist and did not attend because of racial matters.

“The protests and the defacing and the disrespect for that monument (caused us to come here),” Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County’s founder Gary Williamson said. “We are the ones under attack, as far as our history and our heritage.”

Over the shouting, pro-Confederate protestor Catherine Chambers began a conversation with British students James Ellsmoor and Matthew Jackman.

“(Silent Sam) specifically points to the 313 people that died from UNC,” Chambers said to the students.

She said she believes that the monument is a part of the South’s history and shouldn’t be removed.

“I think a lot of the protestors are understandably upset, and so it’s been a lot more shouting, but it’s kind of interesting to engage in dialogue rather than just shouting at people, and listen to what they have to say even if you don’t necessarily agree with it,” Ellsmoor said.

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