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Saturday June 3rd

How community leaders in Carrboro are urging UNC to handle Confederate groups on campus

Students and community members hold hands during the Unsung Founders Memorial vigil hosted by UNC Black Congress, Thursday April 4, 2019 at McCorkle Place.
Buy Photos Students and community members hold hands during the Unsung Founders Memorial vigil hosted by UNC Black Congress, Thursday April 4, 2019 at McCorkle Place.

After incidents of racist vandalism on campus along with an armed Confederate group walking around campus last month, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday urging UNC to act and collaborate with town communication initiatives.

The resolution, motioned by Alderman Damon Seils, asks the University to rescind trespass warnings against student anti-racist activists as well as press charges and issue trespass warnings against members of a Confederate group who brought firearms on campus on March 16. Seven trespass orders have already been rescinded.

The resolution also called for immediate Alert Carolina warnings when an armed individual is on campus, and for the University to partner with Carrboro on communication and local police education initiatives. 

Seils said he was inspired to act after attending a pair of local NAACP meetings last weekend, where discussion centered on white supremacy’s recent prominence in the community.

“A lot of people in this community have been around this community long enough to know that none of this is new, and we have to call it out when we see it," he said. “And we shouldn’t be afraid to do that.”

Anna Richards, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, said she thinks the University not taking action immediately after the March 16 incident could have emboldened the racist, anti-Semitic incidents that have since occurred. 

She said white supremacists are a real, dangerous threat, referencing the social media post made by a member of the March 16 Confederate group, saying he was ready to die and kill for his beliefs.

“We can’t be so smug here to think that these things can’t escalate and that we can’t have a tragedy here,” she said at Tuesday's meeting. “I would hate for that to happen and for us as citizens to have not risen up to say this is not what we want in our community.”

Richards also said she has been in communication with interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, and that he invited her to identify names of community members to serve on a University safety commission. 

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist said she was concerned about the perception of safety on UNC’s campus. She said a UNC student on her staff avoids McCorkle Place because of her parents’ concern. 

“It broke my heart,” Gist said. “We read these things, but on a very personal level, very young people — 18, 19, 20, 21 — will not go on certain parts of our campus because they are afraid.”

Seils said Carrboro hopes to mitigate racial discrimination and inequality through its partnership with the Government Alliance on Race & Equity, as well as education initiatives the town has adopted since the Charlottesville incident in 2017.

“Certainly those of us who are white, those of us who are not originally from the community, we need to be doing a better job of educating ourselves about in the history of racism in our community and how it’s shaped our institutions,” he said. 

James Williams, first vice-president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, said silence could not be afforded, and that the resolution is critical in voicing the community’s condemnation of white supremacy.

“Silence quite often is construed as either not caring or consent,” he said. “And I know the people on this board care. I think it means a lot to a community just to know that you use your voice to express your concern.”


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