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UNC-system to hire outside firm to investigate University, police response to protest


Update, 8:14 p.m.: The News & Observer has reported that the UNC-system Board of Governors will hire an outside firm to look into the University and police response to demonstrators' toppling of Silent Sam on Monday night. 

"I expect a full investigation of the incident and why law enforcement stood down, as well as the discovery of the perpetrators of the felonious destruction of property and their prosecution," said Thom Goolsby, a member of the Board of Governors and former N.C. Senator, in a statement to The Daily Tar Heel. 

"The monument should be repaired and reinstalled," Goolsby said. "I fully expect any and all lawfully erected historical monuments to remain standing as per state law. If, in the future, it is the will of the North Carolina people to change the law, I will abide by the will of the people, even though I would disagree. This is what it means to live under the Rule of Law, not the rule of the mob."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified Randy Young as the director of campus safety. Young is a member of UNC's media relations team working with UNC Police and Transportation and Parking. The story has been updated, and The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

After releasing a short statement Monday night following the Silent Sam protest where the Confederate monument was forcibly removed by demonstrators, UNC has released an updated statement.

"We have asked the (State Bureau of Investigations) to assist the police to fully investigate the incident, and they have agreed," the statement reads. "We do not support lawlessness, and we will use the full breadth of state and University processes to hold those responsible accountable for their actions."

Tuesday afternoon, activists gathered around the pedestal. Although they denied any involvement in the actual toppling of the statue, UNC graduate students and activists Lindsay Ayling and Samee Siddiqui expressed solidarity for those who pulled Silent Sam down.

"It's up to the administration to decide if they want to prosecute students for doing what they were afraid to do for over a year," Ayling said. "I would discourage the administration from pressing charges against students."

An arrest record from UNC Police confirms that one male was arrested on Monday night for resisting arrest and wearing a mask or hood on public property. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The statement addressed police presence during the protest. Many have questioned how police officers at the statue, who numbered approximately 30 at the time of the toppling, allowed demonstrators to get in a position to pull the statue down.

"Safety is always paramount, but at no time did the administration direct the officers to allow protestors to topple the monument," the statement says. "During the event, we rely on the experience and judgement of law enforcement to make decisions on the ground."

The statement was signed by Carol Folt, Chancellor; Harry Smith, UNC Board of Governors Chairperson; Margaret Spellings, UNC System President; and Haywood Cochrane, UNC Board of Trustees Chairperson.

Although the University's statement says no one was injured during the protest, Ayling and Siddhiqui stated that they witnessed violence from counter-protestors directed toward protestors.

"I saw the counter-protestors dive into the crowd and immediately start violently attacking the protestors," Ayling said. "Earlier that night, I saw a different white supremicist dive into the crowd and attack protestors."

A UNC graduate student who identified himself only as Tim said moments after Silent Sam fell, a knife was pressed to his stomach.

Randy Young, the University's media relations manager for UNC Police, has provided the following statement on allegations of activists being assaulted by Confederate sympathizers and police officers: "We cannot confirm this because UNC Police has not received any official reports of assault." 

Monday afternoon, the Undergraduate Executive Branch, headed by Student Body President Savannah Putnam, released a statement on their website.

"Last night, a group of students and community organizers did what few were prepared to do: they corrected a moral and historical wrong," the statement says. "Last night, they tore down Silent Sam. They were right to do so." 

In the final debate before her election, Putnam showed support for removing the Silent Sam monument and placing it in a museum. After activist Maya Little was arrested in April, Putnam released a letter in which she called upon the Office of Student Conduct to drop Little's Honor Court charges.

"Yesterday was a great day to be a Tar Heel," the statement says. "By working together, tomorrow will be too."

Questions remain regarding the future of the monument. Although a UNC Facilities and Maintenance truck removed the statue Monday night from where it fell, the pedestal on which it stood remains. Signs featuring the names of prominent activists of color, including James Lewis Cates, Oscar Diggs and Henry Owl, were taped around the pedestal Tuesday afternoon.

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"A friend from the History department made these signs," Ayling said. "In her speech, Maya talked about how there should be monuments celebrating people of color on campus. These names are all people of color who contributed to UNC as a university or to the labor movement in Chapel Hill."

University officials and Chapel Hill police have declined to state where the statue was taken.

Jared Weber contributed reporting.


A timeline of what transpired at Confederate monument Silent Sam on Monday night

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The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023

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