After more than two hours of protest, those still present at Silent Sam took a seat — sitting cross-legged just feet behind a metal fence and a line of police equipped in riot gear.
Two individuals unaffiliated with the University were arrested by UNC police during the protest last night, according to Joanne Peters Denny, director of media relations for UNC. Peters Denny noted that the “vast majority” of protesters were peaceful.
The protest, slated to begin at 7 p.m., stretched from the Confederate statue to Margaret Spellings’ house, to University United Methodist Church on E. Franklin St.
Leading a chant of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Silent Sam has got to go,” UNC senior Mitch Xia stood in the middle of a crowd adjacent to Silent Sam.
Xia said Chancellor Folt’s email to students about the rally might have publicized the event.
“We realized that there was no particular group that was organizing and supporting this (protest), so we started getting together today. Students on the day of basically organized the speak-out,” Xia said.
Though no single group was recognized as an organizer of the event, Xia said it showed the University and the community’s interest that the turnout was so large.
“For a protest that nobody can seem to agree where it comes from, people are just here because they want this statue down and that’s just incredible,” Xia said.
After a man was led by offsite by police, participants splintered between the Confederate statue and Hyde Hall — where many officers were congregated.
A group of protesters then marched to the house of UNC-system President Margaret Spellings, taking up to four lanes of Franklin St., stopping oncoming traffic in the area, and chanting “Whose street? Our street.”
Once there, a lone police officer stood on the pathway in front of Spellings’ house.
Protesters didn’t enter the property, but John Edmonds, a UNC junior, said speakers addressed the crowd. He said common messages were that no single individual is to blame for systemic bigotry. Much of the group returned to Silent Sam, saying they wanted to stand in solidarity with those being arrested at the statue.
No counter-protesters present at the statue
Counter-protesters did not appear to be present at the protest.
Psalms White, a UNC junior, said she had hoped the presence of counter-protesters might have helped the protest gain attention.
“Unfortunately, the news doesn’t like to really cover anything seriously unless there’s some type of counter-protest,” she said.
At one point, UNC senior Darin Beech shouted “Fascists tear down statues and burn books” to a crowd gathered in front of the Confederate statue.
Beech said he thought taking Silent Sam down feels ridiculous, particularly given what he saw as an intention to honor fallen soldiers.
“Nobody cared about this two months ago, and now everybody wants to destroy all these statues and monuments,” Beech said.
‘A lightning rod’ sitting in McCorkle Place
Tim Carey, an employee at the UNC medical school, said the statue should be moved, but it’s important to think through its underlying symbolism.
“Our country is in a tough spot right now, and it’s unfortunate that statues have become this lightning rod, and as a member of the University I don’t think we need a lightning rod sitting here right now, we have issues we need to work through, as does our country as does our state,” Carey said.
Michelle Brown, a UNC senior who addressed participants through a megaphone next to Silent Sam, said Chancellor Carol Folt has yet to step up to protect her students.
“I will say that just in general, Carol Folt responds and shows what side she’s on every time,” Brown said before the rally began.
Brown said Folt’s messages have been empty and even if the chancellor were to condemn the statue days later, it would be because of external pressures.
“Anything that happens after this point is because someone is pushing her, and I think she’s allowed that to become very clear,” Brown said.