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Is Silent Sam going back up within 90 days? This law might hold the answer.

Silent Sam

Police surround Silent Sam on Aug. 20 after the Confederate monument was pulled down by demonstrators. 

In the week following Silent Sam's forced removal on Aug. 20, questions over what will become of the statue have centered on the interpretation of N.C. Senate Bill 22.

North Carolina General Statute 100-2.1, a section of Senate Bill 22, dictates that “a monument, memorial or work of art owned by the State may not be removed, relocated or altered in any way without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission,” unless, among other reasons, the monument “poses a threat to public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.”

According to the act, a publicly-owned object of remembrance may be temporarily relocated, and then replaced after no more than 90 days, only for the sake of an object’s own preservation, or if the object is blocking construction zones. If it is permanently relocated, it must be relocated to a "site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access that are within the boundaries of the jurisdiction."

An object may be exempt from the law only if it is a Board of Transportation highway marker, is privately-owned or poses a threat to public safety.

Supporters of returning Silent Sam to its original position have cited the act.

On Monday, Aug. 27, UNC Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby released a statement.

“I believe our path moving forward is made clear under North Carolina General Statute Section 100-2.1," he said. "We have no option other than remounting the monument without delay.”

On Thursday, Aug. 23, Goolsby shared his thoughts in a video on his YouTube channel.

"Also, please be aware that North Carolina General Statute 100-2.1 requires that the Silent Sam memorial be placed back on the campus within 90 days of it being pulled down," Goolsby said. "We will make sure that the laws of our state are enforced.”

Others who do not want the statue returned have also cited the act, saying the statue should be kept down permanently because the violent rallies and protests it attracts make it a threat to public safety.

Campus Y Co-President Alli Whitenack believes that because Silent Sam was pulled down by protesters, the 90-day rule does not apply.

“Many Board of Governors members are citing the 2015 law and a specified 90-day period in order to have the statue replaced," Whitenack said. "However, this law only applies to situations in which the statue is removed to be cleaned or for construction. It does not apply in situations where it was forcibly removed."

She said the statue should be properly contextualized by placing it in a museum or educational facility, which is also not allowed under SB 22. 

"The act was passed after the 2015 shooting at a predominantly Black church in Charleston scared politicians into protecting Confederate monuments," Whitenack said. "The law itself was founded in racism and a desire to uphold white supremacy in North Carolina."

Goolsby said the bill passed unanimously in 2015, with the votes of all senators of both political parties, including current State Attorney General Josh Stein, who was a state senator at the time.

On Saturday, Chancellor Carol Folt spoke with the press after more demonstrations at the monument’s pedestal. She emphasized a need to follow state laws when finding a solution. UNC Media Relations said Chancellor Folt’s comments represent the most updated information from the University.

In those comments, Folt said, “We have to find a way going forward to identify a sustainable, lawful solution for the Confederate monument in the long term, but we don’t have plans identified for that yet.”

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