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Saturday December 3rd

Local, state leaders react to Silent Sam's removal

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Following the removal of Silent Sam by protestors Monday night, local and state leaders issued statements that ranged from condemning demonstrators' actions to praising the absence of the Confederate monument from UNC's campus.

Gov. Roy Cooper denounced the forcible removal of the statue, asserting that change — in the statue’s removal or relocation — should have came through legal means.

“Governor Cooper has been in contact with local law enforcement and UNC officials regarding tonight's rally and appreciates their efforts to keep people safe,” the Governor’s office said in a statement Tuesday night. “The Governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”

Damon Seils, a Carrboro Board of Aldermen member, said the forced removal of Silent Sam was predictable after years of gridlock in state government and inaction by campus administration.

“Really, we saw this coming didn't we? My feelings about it are, the Carrboro Board has been consistent for a long time now in encouraging leadership to find a new place for the statue, so I'm glad to see that it's finally gone," Seils said. 

In a statement, N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger labeled protesters as a violent mob, and he insisted their actions would not heal racial injustice in North Carolina.

“Many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs, and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won’t heal those wounds," Berger said in his statement. 

Berger continued to attack Gov. Cooper and local officials for their rhetoric surrounding protests and a lack of law enforcement.

“Only a civil society that adheres to the rule of law can heal these wounds and politicians — from the Governor down to the local District Attorney — must start that process by ending the deceitful mischaracterization of violent riots as ‘rallies’ and reestablishing the rule of law in each of our state’s cities and counties," Berger said.

UNC's administration has previously sought relocation for Silent Sam but faced legal obstacles. In 2015, former governor Pat McCrory signed Senate Bill 22, a General Assembly bill that banned removal and restricted relocation of historical monuments such as Silent Sam.

In the wake of Silent Sam’s removal, the political debate over Confederate statues in North Carolina is still deeply divided.

On WBT radio Tuesday morning, McCrory labeled the Monday night protest as mob rule and questioned whether people will begin to call for the destruction of the Washington Monument or Jefferson Memorial, due to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owning slaves.

“Do you think these left-wing anarchists are going to end with Silent Sam?” McCrory said.

At another stage in the interview, McCrory compared the actions of the protesters to that of the Nazis’ actions during the Holocaust.

“Are they any different than Nazis of the 1930s, 1920s in Germany tearing down statues, burning books?” McCrory said.

Cooper’s administration said he hopes to preserve the full scope of North Carolina’s history through the public school curriculum and aims to relocate Confederate statues to more appropriate venues

“Governor Cooper believes our history should be documented and studied in textbooks and museums, and the administration has recommended moving several monuments to the Bentonville Battlefield historic site where they can be put in context to give a fuller picture of our past,” his office said in an email.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest said the state government was ready to discuss solutions regarding Silent Sam’s future on Wednesday.

“A committee was scheduled this week to discuss next steps on Silent Sam and other historical monuments,” Forest said in a statement. “Instead, a mob took matters into their own hands, throwing to the wind the rule of law. Regardless of where you find yourself on the political spectrum, this is a slippery slope.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the city is committed to moving past Silent Sam and ensuring a future of safe, peaceful protest. 

In a joint statement, N.C. Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-Orange, N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange and Rep.Graig Meyer, D-Orange, Durham, said the removal of UNC's Confederate statue was long overdue.

"It was past time for Silent Sam to be moved from a place of honor on the campus of the University of the People," the statement said. "It is unfortunate that state legislators chose not to hear and pass the bill we filed earlier this year to move the monument to an indoor site where it would stand as a reminder of the bitter racial struggle that continues to burden our country."

The N.C. Historical Commission Confederate Monuments Study Committee is still scheduled to meet Wednesday at 10 a.m., followed directly by the N.C. Historical Commission. The committee will make a recommendation to the N.C. Historical Commission on whether to relocate three Confederate statues from Raleigh state capitol grounds.


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