In the aftermath of Silent Sam’s Aug. 20 toppling, 12 people have been charged with crimes connected to the Confederate monument’s removal and the conflicts that have followed.
As court appearances for some of those individuals began this week, groups on both sides are standing by the actions of those arrested in their names.
“We’re all saying that’s the most important thing,” said Altha Cravey, professor of geography at UNC and member of the activist group Move Silent Sam. “To drop the charges and to protect students, protect life and liberty, and protect people rather than statues.”
The Move Silent Sam group recently released a new list of demands, including that the University should drop all criminal and Honor Court charges against those involved with movement for the statue’s removal.
Barry Brown, a 40-year-old resident of Liberty, N.C., faces charges of “simple affray.” Videos show Brown, Confederate flag in one hand and flowers in the other, being blocked by counter-protesters as he attempted to walk to the base of Silent Sam’s pedestal.
When one of the counter-protesters, later identified as a UNC student, grabbed at Brown’s flowers, he released the flag and punched the student in the jaw.
“I was going to pay my respects,” Brown said. “And like a little old lady and her pocketbook, somebody takes that pocketbook, and that little old lady can’t defend herself. But I’m not that little old lady. I’m a grown man. You try to take something out of a grown man’s hand."
Brown received support from Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County N.C. following his arrest, with the group calling him a “brother” and one of its “closest members" on its Facebook page.
ACTBAC has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “neo-Confederate hate group” two years in a row. The group denies that label. But the SPLC has said past public demonstrations held by ACTBAC have been attended by members of other white supremacy groups, including the League of the South, a group “that advocates for a second Southern secession.”
ACTBAC wrote in a Facebook post Saturday, “Lesson learned today…. To the little communist with a sore jaw this afternoon. Do not mess with Silent Sams flower!!!!”
The group’s post, which included a video of Brown’s punch and subsequent arrest, had 430 likes and 409 shares as of Wednesday evening.
Three individuals have been charged in the actual removal of Silent Sam: 23-year-old Hillsborough resident Lauren Aucoin, 27-year-old Raleigh resident Raul Arce Jimenez and 27-year-old Durham resident Jonathan Fuller. They each face misdemeanor charges for causing a public disturbance and defacing, writing on, marking or injuring a public statue or monument.
The three have not spoken publicly, but a source told the DTH they plan to hold a press conference Aug. 30 following their 9:00 a.m. court appearance.
Seven other individuals involved with the movement to remove Silent Sam face charges ranging from simple assault to injury to personal property to resisting arrest. Four of them appeared in court Monday and are set for return appearances over the coming months. The rest are set for court appearances over the next week.
All of those individuals are represented by Durham attorney Scott Holmes.
Brown’s representation is unknown. His first court appearance is set for Thursday at 9:00 a.m.
UNC Police filed a warrant Tuesday charging the UNC student who Brown punched with affray, the same charge Brown received from UNC Police. That student was the first University-affiliated person charged in connection with recent Silent Sam events.
The student could not be identified or reached for comment. Cravey said she heard the student’s warrant had been served and he’d been given a court date. Those details are unconfirmed at this point.
The man who punched the student said he thinks the student wasn’t charged with enough.
“It was attempt of robbery, because he tried to steal my flowers,” Brown said.
Cravey said Wednesday morning that the student was with other supporters, working to remove his personal information from the University’s official directory “so that people won’t be coming for him and he won’t be so easy to find.”
John Quick, a 35-year-old Carrboro resident charged with simple assault, also showed hesitation at identifying himself when contacted by the DTH.
“You are with the Tar Heel?” Quick asked. “I mean, there’s a lot of right-wing extremist groups trying to dox me and get information from me right now, so I’m not totally trusting of everyone.”
Quick said he doesn’t see the charges against him as totally justified and compared police conduct in his situation to Brown’s.
“You’ve seen the video of the man who punched the kid in the face? I mean he was led away very cordially," Quick said. "They had four police officers around me, manhandling me.”
In the wake of these arrests, tensions are far from cooled. The University issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the potential of more demonstrations at Silent Sam on Thursday evening, with “a real possibility” to “escalate to violence.”
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