Warnings to stay away from the UNC campus have come from the university once again ahead of a planned Silent Sam rally.
UNC administrators are contemplating the future of the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam after it was torn down from its pedestal on the Chapel Hill campus last week.
But while officials debate the future of the monument, its toppling continues to incite emotional responses from across the state and country.
Social media rumors of a possible rally last Saturday set off a series of responses from the campus and Chapel Hill officials before opposing groups met on McCorkle Place, where the statue’s base remains.
Now, what is being billed as a “twilight service” in honor of Silent Sam is scheduled for Thursday night. It’s being organized by Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, the same group that has organized raisings of large Confederate flags and organizing pro-Confederate protests in Alamance and Orange counties. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed ACTBAC has a hate group in the past.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said after a special meeting of the university’s governing board on Tuesday that campus police were continuing to work to place the safety of everyone that may come on campus as a top priority, while also ensuring the right to gather on the campus and protest.
“They are well underway at considering that,” Folt said when asked Tuesday about the prospect of future protests. “And I do really think they will do everything necessary to keep the peace at that moment and keep us going forward.”
Actions of campus police were questioned after last Monday’s rally where the statue was pulled down. There were fewer barriers and police obstructing the path of protesters to the monument. The police presence was much heavier for Saturday’s rally, and a small barricade has remained around the base of the monument this week.
WRAL-TV obtained, through a public records request, emails and text messages from Chapel Hill Police chief Chris Blue telling officers to stay back from protesters gathered around the statue. UNC police typically lead policing efforts on the university campus, where Silent Sam was located, but Chapel Hill Police are often working alongside campus authorities during large events.
Folt said the campus law enforcement was constantly reviewing their actions.
“They are also questioning and evaluating their own performance,” Folt said. “And we’re all completely willing to work with the Board of Governors, or others, who want to really ask questions about that.
“But I have a lot of confidence in them, and I turn to them again. And I particularly have confidence in their absolute quest to do things in the best possible way and their commitment to our community.”
The Board of Governors has said it will engage with an outside firm to conduct a review of policing tactics from the night where the state was pulled down.
There have been 11 arrests, as of last update, in connection with the rallies last Monday and Saturday, including one member of the group planning Thursday night’s twilight service. A warrant for an additional individual was issued on Tuesday in connection with Saturday’s rally, but it had not been served as of last update.
Anti-Silent Sam protesters are using social media to promote a “dance party” on McCorkle Place before the scheduled twilight service.
UNC officials released a message to the campus community on Wednesday evening alerting them to the possibility of the rally and urging the campus to “stay away from McCorkle Place.” Chapel Hill leadership released a statement late Wednesday saying that restrictions would be implemented around 5 p.m. Thursday for parking and navigating some roadways in downtown, similar to measures taken in advance of Saturday’s rally.