“We want to be a welcoming community for all," Hemminger said. "There’s a public safety concern (with the statue) and someone’s going to get hurt eventually. Governments are supposed to help protect the people, and this is something we take very seriously."
The Town has taken similar positions on other Confederate markers and symbols. In 2018, the Town removed the Jefferson Davis memorial highway marker on Franklin Street.
“As soon as I got the ruling from the attorney general to remove it, it was gone," Hemminger said. "We don’t want anyone to feel threatened or concerned that they wouldn't be welcome in our community.”
Guskiewicz wrote a letter to the BOG in December emphasizing his opposition to the statue returning to campus.
"Since my appointment as interim chancellor, I have maintained that the monument should never return to campus, and I support the work by members of the Board of Governors to pursue this goal,” he said in the letter.
The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro recently penned a letter requesting the statue be placed far away. Although each of the entities sent similar letters back in 2018, Aaron Nelson, the chamber's president and CEO, said the settlement’s recent dismissal prompted the Town's leadership to reiterate their stances.
“Had nothing changed, we probably would not have reissued the letter," Nelson said. "The statue’s future seems uncertain, and we wanted to make sure that our position was clear."
The letter referenced three reasons to permanently relocate the statue away from Chapel Hill: safety, negative business impact and community reputation.
Representatives from both the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce declined to comment on where specifically the monument should go. Matt Gladdek, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said he doesn't think Silent Sam has a place on campus or in downtown Chapel Hill.
“It’s a piece of history that, if anything, we need to learn from," Gladdek said. "I think that we should be moving forward by directing people to the Unsung Founders monument. We need to be moving into an age where everyone feels welcome in our downtown."
Regardless of the outcome concerning Silent Sam’s placement, Hemminger said the safety of students and community members remains a top priority for Town leadership.
“I’m the mom of four college kids, three that went to UNC, and you want to know that your kids are safe when they’re away from home," Hemminger said. "As a mom, I take that really seriously."
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