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Monday December 5th

Students remain at Silent Sam statue following protests, arrests

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Three days after the initial Silent Sam protest, activists continue to demand the removal of the monument, while hearings for those arrested began in Hillsborough. 

Two individuals arrested in conjunction with Tuesday’s protest at Silent Sam appeared for their first court appearance Thursday morning at the Orange County Courthouse.   

Gregory Williams, a protester at the rally, was charged with wearing a mask on public property and for resisting a public officer. After his appearance this morning, his charges are pending until February.    

Claude Wilson, a UNC sophomore and columnist for The Daily Tar Heel, was charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing a police officer. The case was granted a continuance, and according to Wilson’s lawyer, Bill Massengale, Wilson’s next court date is Sept. 26.

“I felt surprisingly calm during the arrest, but I did not sleep at all the night I was released and I was anxious about going to court,” Wilson said. “I have been a little stressed with keeping up with my schoolwork while also having to go to a lawyer and the courthouse in the middle of the first week of classes.” 

In the wake of Tuesday's protests, students have been participating in an around-the-clock sit-in at the base of Silent Sam. Protesters have been present on the site between classes to keep a group in front of the statue at all times.

Police removed a tent that protesters brought to the sit-in on Thursday night, said sophomore and sit-in participant Nicole Stavrojohn. The incident will not stop them from maintaining a 24-hour presence, she said.

"Two days in, it feels really good," Stavrojohn said. "If anything, I feel more connected to my community from doing this."

Senior Michelle Brown was at the protest Tuesday and Wednesday and said she'd wait as long as it took.

"We're all taking shifts to stay here at the statue until it comes down. I don't think that the statue is going to come down anytime soon considering Chancellor Folt has had all her outs and chosen not to take them, but we'll stay here until it comes down," she said.

Brown said she feels disappointed that more students didn't turn out, but she's proud of the ones who did. 

"I think the only thing successful was the solidarity shown and the fact that we're back again," she said.

Brown said she hopes the sit-in prompts people who don't know the history behind the statue to become interested and involved.

"If you care and you have morals if you care about people, then you should care about this statue coming down,"  she said. "We shouldn't have to beg you to show up." 

Student Mario Benavente was at the sit-in where he said he was protesting the racist monuments on the North Quad. After taking African-American Diaspora courses, Benavente said he found out that many of the buildings on McCorkle Place are named after racist individuals.

 "You learn in (African-American Diaspora) 101 about all these different ways there are subtle, subversive remnants of these white supremacist tendencies that the University holds onto," he said. "A lot of people ignore them, say it doesn't matter, but it's not a coincidence, it's very intentional."

The outpouring of community support is striking, said junior Suad Jabr, who participated in the sit-in.  

"There have been a lot of people who have come by and brought supplies. People with their kids, people stopping by and asking, 'What's going on? We want to help.' We have food, water, sleeping bags, it's been really nice. Most of it has come from community members, people in Chapel Hill who care about the statue coming down, who care about this school," Jabr said.

"I think at this point everybody's got the momentum that we need (to continue the protest). The administration knows what we want, they know our demands, they've heard them. We aren't going anywhere."

Jacob Hancock contributed reporting.

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