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'It's just flat out wrong': Students and faculty protest BOG litigation ban and Silent Sam

After rallying against the shut down of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, protesters march to Silent Sam to show solidarity with the sit-in.

After rallying against the shut down of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, protesters march to Silent Sam to show solidarity with the sit-in.

Students donned orange in the Pit Thursday to protest the possible closing of the Center for Civil Rights. 

UNC Black Congress organized the protest at noon. Over one hundred protesters started at the Pit and then moved to Silent Sam, chanting, "If you don't give us justice, we won't give you peace."

Director of the Center for Civil Rights and UNC law professor Ted Shaw said he attended to express his appreciation of students' support. Shaw said he's not feeling hopeful about the vote. 

"The indications are that there's a very good chance that the Board of Governors is going to push through this ban on doing civil rights cases," he said. "I wish they would turn around and do the right thing, but that's in their hands."

Shaw said the University will lose more than just the opportunity for experiential learning in civil rights law. 

"It will lose some integrity," he said. "It will lose its connection with the Center as it was created by Julius Chambers in honor of his legacy, and frankly I think it’s going to lose credibility in legal academia across the county."

"You know the country is watching this — people across the country are watching this, so it will lose a great deal."

Chancellor Carol Folt sent a letter to BOG member Anna Nelson, a supporter of the Center, saying the litigation ban would damage the University's reputation and harm law students.

"As educators, we strive to determine the best methods for teaching our students and ensuring our graduates are well prepared for the rigors of their chosen professions, and to address the pressing issues and opportunities of the time," she wrote.

Angum Check, a Black Congress leader and protest organizer, said closing the Center goes beyond the University's reputation. 

"It’s going to impact people," Check said. "And the fact that (Chancellor Folt) didn’t highlight that means that all her, ‘I care about the people,’ is bullshit because that’s what she should have been focusing on and highlighting. But I understand that she cares more about her paycheck."

Patty Matos, a UNC junior public relations student, said she understands Folt's point of view, but she thinks the chancellor needs to take a stronger stance on the rights of students of color. 

"I think time and time again there's been so many instances of the administration undermining the rights of students of color," Matos said. "And the work that the Center does for defending not just students of colors — but our intersectional rights as women, as LGBTQ people, is so important."

Check spoke to the crowd at the Pit. She said the BOG voted over the summer to prevent students from having a voice in the decision.

"We have to show the board that we care about this issue," she said. "And although it hasn’t been as prevalent in the media as (Silent) Sam, this issue has far more repercussions because that means every single person — black person, poor person — will not have the opportunity to use the Center for Civil Rights."

After about 15 minutes, students at the Pit migrated to Silent Sam to protest Silent Sam. Both protests were organized by Black Congress.

Shaw said closing the Center — which provides representation to poor, black and brown people and civil rights litigation and to train new generations of civil rights lawyers 

"That's not only a supreme irony," he said. "But it puts the University in a position that is retrogressive, and it’s tragic and it’s just flat out wrong."

Mark Dorosin, the managing attorney at the Center, also spoke at Silent Sam. He said the people who work at the Center live privileged lives and are grateful to get to help different communities. He said the Center stands as a counterpoint to Silent Sam. 

"What the Board of Governors wants to do is silence that voice," Dorosin said. "It’s not silencing me or my coworkers or lawyers. It's about silencing people who otherwise have no voice across North Carolina ... who have been fighting for decades against white supremacy and the legacy of racist discrimination." 


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