Protesters and activists, including Chelsea Manning, rallied against the Silent Sam memorial on campus Saturday. Protests against Silent Sam have been occurring since August and advocate for the removal of the monument.
With protesters chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue’s got to go,” as they walked from the Pit to the monument on McCorkle Place, admitted students on tours and police standing by watched the progression.
There were about 50 people in attendance — including celebrity activists, undergraduate students, graduate students, citizens from the Durham protests and members of the local University Workers Union.
In comparison with previous Silent Sam protests, this one called attention to more than just the statue — they also spoke out against state surveillance and violence against activist groups.
Chelsea Manning, a former United States soldier who served seven years in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth for leaking classified United States documents, was brought in as a speaker for the protest. Manning has been an activist for many years, but after Charlottesville, Va., she shifted focus to the removal of statues commemorating the Confederacy and white supremacy.
“Obviously we got to close prisons, we got to deal with ICE, we got to deal with statues like this, we got to deal with white supremacy and all these systemic problems that the criminal justice system, that the immigration system, that the military industrial complex all contribute to,” Manning said.
Additionally, Manning went as far to say that “having U.S. forces in a country like Iraq killing brown people is effectively a systemic form of white supremacy.”
Protests against Confederate statues have been on the rise in recent years. Arguments for keeping the statues are based on their representation of history and that history shouldn’t be erased from the public eye. Arguments against the Confederate statues revolve around the idea that they represent white supremacy.
In August 2017, protesters toppled a Confederate statue in Durham. One of the arrested and acquitted for tearing down the monument, Raul Jimenez, was in attendance at Saturday’s protest in Chapel Hill. He said he came to support everyone who has protested against Silent Sam.
“It’s important to stand together and to fight together," he said.
Jimenez also said what happens to the statue should be decided by the students of UNC, since they are the ones who walk by it on a daily basis.
In terms of state surveillance, one of the protesters discussed how state surveillance of activist groups is unjust. The protester told a story about how they were monitored by the FBI and that the FBI even came to their house because of the groups they were working for and associated with.
Fourth-year religious studies graduate student Micah Hughes marched to show support for students and wants Silent Sam removed. He believes that it is unacceptable for police to infiltrate student protesters and thinks the real threat is white supremacy groups.
“I think that it’s a danger to the freedom of speech, it’s a danger to the right to congregate and express our opinions and to resist forms of oppression and fascism and white supremacy on campus, when police agencies and government agencies try to surveil those actions,” Hughes said.
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