Protesters Rally Against UNC Chapel Hill’s Decision to Reinstate Confederate Statue

On Monday night, protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rallied against the university board’s decision to reinstate Silent Sam, the Confederate monument that was toppled on August 20. Riot cops were brought to the scene of the protests, where students gathered with signs. “We have nothing to lose but our chains,” they chanted. Maya Little, the UNC history doctoral student who faced criminal charges for throwing red ink and blood on the Confederate statue in April, called for professors and TAs to join the protest by not turning in final grades. 

“The university will continue to honor its students who died in the Civil War,” reads the four-part plan to reinstate the statue, presented by the university board on Monday. “The names of the university’s Confederate dead are inscribed on marble tablets that flank the stage in Memorial Hall and are recorded in the bronze book of honor.” The reinstatement of the Confederate monument is estimated to cost $5.3 million and over $800,000 annually.  

Many have long decried the statue, which was donated to the university by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as a symbol of the school’s racist heritage. The “campus community and public input” section of the report reads: “Positive relationships with residents, government officials, businesses, and law enforcement are critically important and have been strained by the presence of the monument. . . . We also received a number of requests from local communities. For example, in 2017, the town of Chapel Hill requested that the university remove the monument from McCorkle Place, and more recently in 2018 requested that the university not return the monument to McCorkle Place. The town cited safety concerns, civil rights issues, and the strain placed on law enforcement resources . . . The Chapel Hill Police Department has stated that it will not expend resources to protect the monument.”

The report continues: “The Orange County Commissioners issued a statement on August 21, 2018, calling the removal of the Monument ‘long overdue’ and noting its association with racism. . . . And on August 30, 2018, the Chamber and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership sent a letter to the university requesting that the monument not be returned to McCorkle Place. The letter emphasized safety concerns, negative business impacts, and erosion of the community’s reputation as one of ‘the best small towns in the U.S.’ The letter noted that local businesses are estimated to lose $200,000 for each major protest around the monument.”

During its unveiling in 1913, one speaker boasted that he’d “horsewhipped a Negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” for publicly insulting a “Southern Lady.” He also declared that “the whole Southland is sanctified by the precious blood of the student Confederate soldier” and that the cause for which the Confederacy had fought “is not lost.”