To the Editor:
We write to express concern for graduate students at UNC who were attacked on November 16 by Confederate monument supporters in Chatham County. According to previous news reports and eyewitness accounts, some of the aggressors belong to the League of the South, whose stated goal is to create a white ethno-state.
In the events that transpired on Nov. 16, police arrested both the attackers and the victims. One of the attackers was released on a written promise to appear in court, while the court assigned a $10,000 bond to one of the UNC graduate students who was attacked. To be sure, violence is not an acceptable way to resolve conflict, but self-defense is not a crime. We are concerned that the police appear to have arrested victims of a crime while overlooking the perpetrators of criminal activity.
As scholars, we observe historical and contemporary patterns, and this is a concern that echoes within and beyond our campus. We are concerned that under the guise of law and order, of preserving the Constitutional right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, the police are encouraging violence, specifically, by offering cover and protection to activists whose purpose in gathering is to provoke, inflame, and intimidate.
Our concern for students’ safety is also a concern for all of our state’s residents. We are concerned for our democracy and the principle of equal protection under the law. There is a deep history of police compliance with those who would attack otherwise peaceful protesters.
In Selma, Alabama, police attacked civil rights advocates during a peaceful march. In Greensboro, North Carolina, authorities demonized and red-baited labor organizers there, which emboldened Ku Klux Klan members to shoot and kill demonstrators during an organized protest. In Philadelphia, Mississippi, three voter registration volunteers were killed by a mob, while only one man served time for manslaughter. We fear that the events in Pittsboro and their courtroom ramifications will become part of a similar phenomenon.
Citizens of whatever political opinion should expect law enforcement to hold themselves accountable to the standards of justice they are sworn to uphold.
Sharon P. Holland
Malinda Maynor Lowery
Malinda Maynor Lowery, PhD
Professor of History
Director, Center for the Study of the American South
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