Students, faculty and community members packed Franklin Street on Monday night to protest the University’s proposal to spend $5.3 million, in addition to $800,000 annually, for a new on-campus building housing Silent Sam.
The University’s proposal includes the creation of a "University History and Education Center" in Odum Village on South Campus. The building would be used to contextualize the University’s history, including the Confederate monument.
There was one arrest on Monday night with charges of assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer, Media Relations Manager for UNC Public Safety Randy Young said in a statement.
The protest began in front of the Peace and Justice Plaza overlooking McCorkle Place, where multiple police officers surrounded the monument’s empty base. The demonstrators began the evening with a series of speeches and chants, condemning what they called the University’s history of upholding white supremacy.
When UNC history doctoral student Maya Little spoke, she said the University had decided to erect a Confederate monument 155 years after enslaved people had forced the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, “on a campus that was built by Black people and continues to exploit their labor.”
Little emphasized that the costly project has been proposed at the same time that the University approved a new, $65 Facilities Maintenance Debt Service Fee for students.
She also highlighted the story of James Cates, a 22-year-old Black resident of Chapel Hill who was murdered on UNC's campus in 1970 by a white supremacist biker gang.
“It is not expected that Black students on this campus should not be able to study, to work or to learn,” Little told the crowd. “To expect them take their final exams, to expect them to be in their classes, continues and perpetuates this racially hostile environment.”
Little called on all UNC teaching assistants and faculty to follow past support they’ve shown for student activists by withholding grading of exams and assignments in response to the Silent Sam plan, ending her speech by leading a chant of, “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”
De'Ivyion Drew, a first-year member of the Student Government’s executive branch, opened her speech by saying she does not feel safe as a Black woman at UNC, drawing a comparison to the Black woman that Julian Carr bragged about whipping in his speech at Silent Sam’s 1913 unveiling.
She said Confederate soldiers are treasonous of the United States and that Silent Sam is a "figment of the white imagination."
Drew, a studio art major, gave her idea to mold a surrealist sculpture commemorating LeRoy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon and Ralph Frasier, the first three Black undergraduates at UNC, that would replace Silent Sam’s empty pedestal in McCorkle Place.
Another speaker, Black Student Movement President Qieara Lesesne, said she is disappointed to be associated with an institution that “continuously seeks to protect and glorify the white supremacists who love to hate us.” She said that while she may be less proud to be a Tar Heel, she is more proud to be a part of BSM.
Lesesne said the BSM strongly opposes the University’s proposal and calls for a new plan for the statue “that does not include a place on our University’s campus.”
History graduate student Lindsay Ayling gave a few words before the crowd poured into Franklin Street.
“It took a crowd about this size only 10 seconds to bring that statue down,” Ayling said. “This is our town and those are our streets.”
The crowd marched down the street, led by a few demonstrators holding a large banner that read, “Put it up. We’ll tear it down. Anti-racists run this town.”
Traffic was stopped in all directions as demonstrators marched through both lanes of Franklin Street.
The crowd turned left onto South Columbia Street and then left onto East Cameron Avenue, which was blocked off from traffic in both directions. The group then entered McCorkle Place and approached the monument where about 10 police officers stood scattered inside the barricades.
“Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” demonstrators chanted.
Some members closest to the barricade began shaking the metal barriers, and police approached to hold them in place. Tensions began to escalate as demonstrators shook harder and placed banners within the barricade.
One police officer ripped the banner from the demonstrators' hands and threw it on the ground. Other officers approached the scene and entered the barricade with riot gear.
“We don’t see no riot here, why are you in riot gear?” the group chanted.
At almost 9 p.m., the demonstrators left the base and walked toward campus.
The group’s final stop was at South Building, which houses the office of Chancellor Carol Folt.
The expansive crowd surrounded the doors of the building, overlooking South Road. The demonstrators grabbed hands and stomped.
“Stand up, fight back,” the demonstrators chanted.
The crowd closed the protest by chanting a poem by activist Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted of first-degree murder of a state trooper during a New Jersey shootout in 1973.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom," the demonstrators chanted. "It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
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