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Anti-Silent Sam advocates celebrate at victory rally Tuesday night

Workers removed Silent Sam's pedestal and plaques the Monday night after Chancellor Carol Folt authorized the removal and announced her resignation. Demonstrators gathered at the Peace and Justice Plaza to celebrate at a victory rally Tuesday night. 

Less than 24 hours after the Silent Sam pedestal was removed from McCorkle Place, anti-Silent Sam activists threw a party with free pizza and hot chocolate available for any anti-racist attendees. Loud music played for the crowd of students and community members gathered at the Peace and Justice Plaza Tuesday evening.

Defend UNC, an online group dedicated to combating institutional racism, hosted the rally. Graduate student Lindsay Ayling explained the importance of public demonstration in celebration as well as protest.

“We demonstrated the power of direct action and we proved that when the UNC community comes together to oppose racism, we can do what our administration and our government failed to do for 100 years,” Ayling said.

Ayling and other activists also addressed the crowd through a bullhorn. Among them was first-year Megan Guzman, who has attended other Silent Sam demonstrations.

“I think going to a school that supports racism and white supremacy isn’t a school I want to be at,” Guzman said. “So, I think while I’m here, I want to help fight that.”

The rally took place one day after Chancellor Folt authorized the removal of the Silent Sam monument base. Folt unexpectedly announced her May 2019 resignation on Monday, and at a UNC-system Board of Governors emergency session the following day, her last day was moved to Jan. 31. 

Activists gathered around the former site of the monument Monday night in celebration of its future absence. Later that night and into early Tuesday morning, construction crews removed the base and relevant plaques from McCorkle Place.

Defend UNC has also planned a Pack the Court event for Friday. Their Facebook event urges people to attend trials at the Orange County Courthouse for three of the 20 activists facing charges for anti-Silent Sam demonstrations. 

The theme of the rally was celebration, but speakers stressed that there is still work to be done to fight white supremacy. 

“I think strategically about how to organize with each one of you, with my students, to take the fight further to the administration,” said Dwayne Dixon, professor in the Department of Asian Studies at UNC. “So I hope you will join me in that struggle, that we will continue to hold each other close, draw on the deep wells of power that we know we all imminently possess, and deploy that, consistently, and without fail, against all the struggles all of us endure and face.”

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