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Trespass notices were dropped for seven anti-Silent Sam demonstrators

Silent Sam Trespass Order

McCorkle Place, the former site of Silent Sam, on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. Silent Sam is a Confederate statue whose presence on campus faced heated opposition in the form of protests and demonstrations. It was eventually forcibly removed by protestors. A number of protestors who opposed the statue have received trespass notices. Many activists believe these notices may be an attempt to silence them due to difficulty in appealing the notices.

Dwayne Dixon, a professor in the Department of Asian Studies, was charged with simple assault during a protest at Silent Sam over allegations of striking Patrick Howley, the editor-in-chief of Big League Politics, on Aug. 20.

Along with his arrest, Dixon received a trespass notice from UNC Police, barring him from entering McCorkle Place, where Silent Sam once stood.

The Daily Tar Heel was unable to find UNC's policies and procedures on issuing trespass orders online. In an email to The Daily Tar Heel, Randy Young, media relations manager for UNC Public Safety, said a trespass citation is not issued unless an individual violates their trespass notice. 

"The notice itself reflects no punitive action," Young said in the email. "It simply warns an individual that they are not to return to a specific campus location or the entire campus depending on the circumstances."

Young also said that trespass notices can be issued in a variety of situations that may or may not involve related criminal citations.

Almost three months after Dixon's arrest, Judge Samantha Cabe of the Orange County Courthouse dismissed Dixon’s case due to a mistake in the charging document. But the trespass notice, which bans Dixon from McCorkle Place indefinitely, remained. After two years, recipients of trespass notices are allowed to seek relief from the notice by contacting the chief of UNC Police.

So, Dixon began trying to appeal the notice.

UNC trespass notices contain a section on appeals, which states that a written appeal must be postmarked to the UNC chief of police — in this case, Chief Jeff McCracken — within 10 days of receiving the notice. The appeal letter should include reason for being on University property, future need to be on University property and the grounds for appeal. The Chief’s decision is the University’s final decision.

Eleven days after receiving his trespass notice, Dixon wrote the police department a letter requesting that the trespass notice be nullified, citing his need “to travel freely in (his) place of employment” and his First Amendment right to free speech and assembly.

In an email, McCracken responded that Dixon was entitled to an “appeal hearing” that could consist of a written appeal or interview.

Dixon said he tried to contact a Durham-based lawyer for representation. But according to an email sent from McCracken to Dixon’s lawyer, “the University does not permit attorneys to participate in Trespass Notice hearings.”

At that point, Dixon said he cut correspondence with the police department.

“There’s no way to get it removed in any sort of open, due-process mechanism,” Dixon said. “As far as I can see, the only way to get it removed without having to make a bogus appeal to a cop, is to do a court challenge, which means to actually break it and have it taken to court to have its constitutionality challenged.”

On Jan. 23, Gina Balamucki, a UNC law student, emailed McCracken the names of seven anti-Silent Sam activists, including Dixon, whose charges were dismissed or who were found not guilty, saying that the dismissal of their charges indicated that they posed no harm to UNC's campus.

The Daily Tar Heel asked McCracken for comment on Monday, Jan. 28. McCracken was not available for comment, Young said.

In an email to The Daily Tar Heel, Young also said that individuals whose trespass notices were being dropped would be notified Wednesday, Jan. 30.

On Monday, hours after The Daily Tar Heel requested comment, McCracken responded to Balamucki and asked for the individuals' email addresses in order to "send each a copy of the rescinded Trespass Notice for their records." 

According to the proposal for the future of Silent Sam presented to the Board of Governors by the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Carol Folt on Dec. 3, McCorkle Place is considered a public forum available for public assembly, protest and debate under First Amendment law and the Campus Free Speech Act. Only narrowly tailored time, place and manner restrictions, which are considered content-neutral, may be imposed on public forums.

For Dixon, who said he teaches in a building on McCorkle Place, complying with the trespass order is difficult.

“I said, ‘Well, my office is adjacent to McCorkle, I teach in Graham Memorial, and my department building is New West,’” Dixon said. “(The issuing officer) said, ‘Well you can use the back door, and if you cross McCorkle, just don’t linger.’”

According to the trespass notice, recipients are permitted to travel along public streets while legitimately passing through University property.

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“It was just so obvious that this was political,” Dixon said. “It’s like, in your daily life, you can cross it, but don’t you dare show up at the statue, because we’ll arrest you. So you can’t exercise your free speech, but we’re not going to delay you if you go to class.”

It is unknown precisely how many people have received trespass notices which bar them from McCorkle Place. At time of publication, a FOIA request for all trespass orders issued on campus since Aug. 20 had not been filled by Next Request, the University’s online public records portal created in the wake of the NCAA academic scandal. But several activists said they see the trespass notices as attempts by the University to stop protests.

“I see these no-trespass orders as a direct assault on anti-racist speech,” said Lindsay Ayling, a graduate student heavily involved in anti-Silent Sam protests. “They prevent us from counter-protesting against white supremacist groups.”

Anna Richards, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP chapter, called the trespass orders "draconian and arbitrary." Richards said her chapter is currently formalizing a position against the trespass notices.

“When it comes down to it, this trespass order is a blade held to my neck,” Dixon said. “It’s maybe a pen knife — I mean, that charge isn’t that serious in the scheme of things — but it’s an attempt to frame me as already perpetually criminalized.”