Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution asking for increased action from UNC after a series of events that have drawn criticism over the past month.
A group known as Heirs to the Confederacy gathered on the campus in mid-March continuing protests after the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam was removed from the UNC campus. A member of that group was carrying a firearm when they came onto the university grounds, which is illegal. He was not arrested by UNC Police and was instead asked to leave the campus, and he complied. That instance is now under review, however, after criticism from the community that the individual should have been arrested and an emergency message should have been sent to the campus alerting them an armed person was on the campus.
Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils read the resolution before the town board Tuesday night.
“The Town of Carrboro urges its neighbor and partner UNC – Chapel Hill to rescind trespass warnings against student antiracist activists, to press charges and issue trespass warnings against persons who on March 16 carried firearms onto the campus, to clarify when the community may expect the presence of an armed person on or near the campus to trigger an Alert Carolina emergency notification. And to invite community members not necessarily affiliated with the university to participate in the campus safety commission being convened by the interim chancellor.”
Seils said the need to bring the resolution to the board was made clear at events over the weekend hosted by the local NAACP.
“Really calling out the fact that there has been a kind of silence – a perceived silence, a real silence – on the part of many town leaders in both towns and in the county about what’s been happening on campus over the past month.”
President of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro NAACP Anna Richards said becoming numb to the continued protests and threats made around the campus could lead to dangerous results.
“We can’t be so smug here to think that these things can’t escalate and that we can’t have a tragedy here,” Richards said. “And I would hate for that to happen and for us as citizens to have not risen up to say, ‘This is not what we want in our community.’”
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist, who works at UNC, said there’s a feeling on campus she hasn’t experienced before, which she said was reiterated in a recent conversation with a student.
“She said, ‘Oh, I don’t go on McCorkle Place,’” Gist said recounting the conversation, adding that the student told her that her parents were concerned for her safety.
Alderwoman Bethany Chaney said she understands some of the reservation about making a statement asking for more action from a community partner as large as the university, but she said that it is necessary to ensure a safe community.
“I know what the excuses are – we don’t want to alienate a partner that contributes a third of our transit system dollars, we wouldn’t want the university telling us what to do, etcetera, etcetera – but the truth is we all play a role in creating safety, or a feeling of safety, in town.”
Chair of the Orange County Commissioners Penny Rich said Wednesday evening she expects the county board to take up the resolution passed by Carrboro. But Rich said it will likely be added to in order to include condemning additional actions after anti-Semitic posters were found in Davis Library on the UNC campus.
The university is in the process of convening a safety commission. Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting that the commission membership should be announced by mid-April. Richards, the NAACP president, said she has met with Guskiewicz and offered the names of community members the organization would like to see included in the discussion.