More than 200 protesters knocked over a divisive Confederate monument at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill called “Silent Sam” ahead of the school’s first day of classes. Videos posted to Twitter show the statue draped in banners and toppling to the ground Monday night amid cheering and applause.
The statue — a gift from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909 — represents the “sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland,” according to UNC’s website. And he’s silent “because he carries no ammunition and cannot fire his gun.”
The protest started at 7 p.m. and included students, university faculty, and residents carrying banners condemning white supremacy, according to the university’s student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel. Carol Folt, the university’s chancellor, called the protest “unlawful and dangerous” in a tweet and said that local authorities are investigating the vandalism.
After being pulled down with ropes by protesters, the remains of the statue were later carted off by university employees on Monday night. One individual was arrested at the protest, according to WRAL.
Counterprotests also took place in support of the Confederate monument, which stoked tensions further after they confronted the demonstrators that eventually pulled down the statue, according to the Tar Heel. Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement posted to Twitter that the “violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”
Students have been protesting “Silent Sam” in various ways since last year, according to the Tar Heel. Last spring, graduate student Maya Little was arrested for covering the statue with her own blood and red paint. She faces charges of defacing a public monument.
During that protest, Little read aloud from a speech Ku Klux Klan supporter Julian Carr gave during the state’s unveiling in 1913. He said during that address that he “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings,” according to the Washington Post. More than 100 Confederate memorials or symbols have been taken down over the last three years, according to a June report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Many of the protests began after a white supremacist opened fire on a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. But they’ve grown in intensity since plans to remove a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, triggered the violent Unite the Right rally last August. The SPLC identified more than 1,700 publicly sponsored Confederate symbols across 23 states and Washington, D.C., not including historical sites such as battlefields or cemeteries.
Cover image: Police stand guard after the confederate statue known as Silent Sam was toppled by protesters on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)