One year after the toppling of Silent Sam, anti-confederate protesters marched across campus and down Columbia Street to celebrate the anniversary and protest what they see as continued memorialization of white supremacy at UNC.
The event began at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street and continued to Silent Sam’s former spot at McCorkle Place, the Unsung Founders Memorial and the Old Well, before concluding at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia Street.
Though confederate protesters were on Franklin Street on Tuesday morning, the anti-confederates did not meet much opposition during the night’s event. One counterprotester followed demonstrators from the Peace and Justice Plaza to McCorkle Place, shouted “MAGA” and played music.
An anti-confederate protester countered back with, “Make assholes go away,” and protesters with an anti-capitalist banner followed the conservative protester while he ran in circles around the group.
Peace and Justice Plaza
Speeches occurred at each step of the event, beginning at the Peace and Justice Plaza with Jamison Lowery, a UNC senior and member of the Lumbee tribe. Lowery delivered a land acknowledgement on behalf of the Carolina Indian Circle.
“To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to the school’s territory we reside on and a way of honoring the indigenous people who have been living and working on the land,” Lowery said.
Following Lowery were performances by the UNC Gospel Choir and a group referred to as the “Raging Grannies,” who sang about Silent Sam falling to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Former Silent Sam location
Anti-confederate protesters then gathered at the location where Silent Sam once stood on McCorkle Place before it was toppled by demonstrators a year ago.
Raul Arce Jimenez, one of the individuals charged with bringing down the statue last year, spoke to the crowd. He said he is still facing charges and awaiting trial.
“What used to be here doesn’t need to be here,” Raul said. “So, today we celebrate, as we did last year when it came down, the absence of a symbol of white supremacy. This symbol stood for more than a hundred years, glaring down on Black and Brown students as they walked by. It stood here to welcome students, but I ask ‘Who felt welcomed as they walked by this statue?’”
Afterward, two police officers mounted on horses patrolled McCorkle Place. As the police rode by the former Silent Sam monument location toward Graham Memorial Hall, anti-confederates chanted, “Get those animals off those horses.”
Unsung Founders Memorial
Anti-confederates moved to the Unsung Founders Memorial to honor "the Black and Brown people who built the University." Speakers brought up issues with the memorial, including that it is a table where people can eat, rather than a type of statue that may give these people more dignity.
Handing out flowers, the anti-confederates held a moment of silence to honor the unsung founders of the University.
Anti-confederates then moved to the Old Well, where students still stood in line to drink from the fountain before the first day of classes ended. Students continued drinking from the fountain as anti-confederates stood by the Old Well with signs protesting what they called monuments to white supremacy on campus. One protester sat on the fountain to stop students from drinking while anti-confederates spoke.
Anti-confederates referred to the event as both a celebration of Silent Sam’s toppling and a tour of remaining symbols of racism on UNC’s campus. The symbols they referred to included Aycock Residence Hall and Kenan Memorial Stadium — which was changed from honoring William Rand Kenan Sr. to honoring his son, William R. Kenan Jr. Speakers said that while William R. Kenan Jr. was a philanthropist, he was only able to be one because of the wealth he gained from his racist father.
After the speaker said the name of each symbol, the crowd shouted “shame.” At the end, the crowd chanted, “We tore down Silent Sam, and we’ll do it again and again … until they all fall.”
Ayling then spoke about the role of of anti-confederates in bringing down Silent Sam last year, despite efforts to bring the statue back to campus.
“We’re proving to the administration that we still care about rejecting white supremacy," Ayling said. "We still want them to remove all the remaining monuments to white supremacy on this campus."
Intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets
From the Old Well, demonstrators marched down Cameron Avenue toward Columbia Street, shouting "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Traffic was stopped as the anti-confederates turned down Columbia Street and continued chanting, ultimately forming a large circle at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia. In the center of the intersection, demonstrators burned a confederate flag, leaving the charred remains smoking in the street.
Even though Silent Sam has been removed from its pedestal, law student Gina Balamucki said the fight against racial injustice at UNC isn't over.
“We had this symbol of white supremacy on our campus that we could point to and say, 'Look at these things that Julian Carr said. Look at how we have all these ties to slavery,'” Balamucki said. “We (still) have all these other markers on our campus, both explicit and implicit, that still honor white supremacy.”
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