Protesters marched through downtown Chapel Hill Monday night after UNC officials announced their plan to return the Silent Sam statue to campus in a new facility near Odum Village. Protesters toppled the statue in August.
The protest began in the evening with more than 150 students, faculty and community members packed into the Peace and Justice Plaza on East Franklin Street, where they heard from organizers, including prominent activist and UNC graduate student Maya Little and members of UNC Black Congress.
Earlier Monday, Chancellor Carol Folt and the Board of Trustees submitted their final proposal for the future of Silent Sam to the UNC System Board of Governors for approval.
The board consulted with security experts from across the country, Folt said, and they recommended the controversial statue return to a specially-built facility where public safety could be better managed. The proposed $5 million building would include state-of-the-art security, educational programming and teaching materials.
Little, who poured a mixture of red paint and her own blood on Silent Sam in the spring, said at the protest that the return of Silent Sam is just another sign the school doesn’t care about its students of color or their concerns.
Folt and several members of the Board of Trustees reiterated earlier on Monday their preference the statue be moved to an off-site location, but they pointed to a 2015 law that limits the movement of objects of remembrance.
Tony Gambrah, a junior at UNC majoring in Psychology, said he wasn’t surprised by the actions of the university, or of its chancellor.
“It’s the usual thing,” he said, with a sign. “I’m black; it’s something I deal with on a daily basis. I understand the perils of white supremacy. It’s unfortunate that UNC wants to say Carolina for All, but not be for me when I’m here right now.”
The protest briefly met police officers at the pedestal where the monument stood for more than 100 years where barriers and spotlights had been set up. One protester was arrested on charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer and resisting, according to UNC officials.
Organizers brought the group away from the site toward the South Building to avoid further violence. A short poem by Assata Shakur was then read before organizers called it a night.