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Sunday's Silent Sam demonstration brought one group, but where was the other?


Student activists gathered early Sunday to counter protest a planned Silent Sam demonstration by Heirs to the Confederacy. The group never showed, but a few dozen students were present at the event.

Huddling in the rain on a near-freezing Sunday morning, a few dozen protesters gathered in the Peace and Justice Plaza to counter-protesters known as the Heirs to the Confederacy, but the group never showed up.

“We believe that whenever white supremacists come to our campus, we have to show up and send a strong message that white supremacy is not welcome here, and the community won’t tolerate it,” said event organizer and UNC Ph.D. candidate Lindsay Ayling.

The counter-protesters gathered for coffee, doughnuts and biscuits and expressed their continued opposition to the on-campus placement of the Silent Sam monument and the Confederate groups that support it.

The Heirs to the Confederacy, who have previously gathered at the statue’s pedestal on McCorkle Place, had planned to demonstrate at 9 a.m., according to a Facebook event. 

"We will begin at 9 a.m. at the Silent Sam monument at the UNC in Chapel Hill N.C., where we will pay homage to the boy soldiers until 12 p.m.," the event description read. "Then we will ride as a group to the Confederate Soldiers Monument in Winston Salem, N.C. We will stand at the moment from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. We welcome everyone to attend both or just one event."

But by 9:30 a.m., none of them had arrived. However, they did attend their Winston Salem protest. According to the Winston Salem Journal, chairperson of the Heirs of the Confederacy Lance Spivey said that the group decided to cancel their Chapel Hill protest without telling anyone because he "wanted to fool the other side into showing up for nothing."

“I think that they got cold and decided to bail on their own rally,” Ayling told the crowd. 

Ayling said some members of the Heirs to the Confederacy group have threatened UNC students and activists.

“We pretty much expected them to not be here by the time that everyone woke up this morning,” said A, a senior undergraduate who requested that their name not be used due to fear of threats. “No matter if they show up or not, it’s important that the campus community … can still come out, get together and say, ‘This is speech — this is action — that we are not OK with on our campus.'”

Student activists weren’t the only ones to brave the cold and attend the latest in the continued series of anti-Silent Sam events since the statue was forcibly removed by demonstrators on the night of Aug. 20. 

Carrboro resident Elizabeth Evans said she thinks local community members are just as opposed to Silent Sam as students are.

“I’m sure the community would be really happy if it went away completely,” Evans said.

Silent Sam’s fate will remain undecided until March 15, when Chancellor Carol Folt and a select group of UNC administrators will decide on yet another plan for the monument’s future with the UNC Board of Governors. The BOG rejected a proposal to house the statue in a new $5 million building on campus that was presented in December. 

That lack of resolution is what A said keeps them coming to each demonstration. 

“The reason I keep coming back out is that it’s not over yet,” they said. “It’s unresolved.”

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